Monday, December 19, 2011

Linguine Alfredo with Sausage

Thursday 15 December
We did thisadding a glugg of wine while the sausage was browning - this is one where you don't want it to be brown, only lose its pinkness - and a couple of Tablespoonsful of chopped fresh sage.
And now an interval while Holt goes on a lecture tour.

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts (Remix)

Wednesday 14 December
Sunday's leftover chicken legs were the main course, but they needed a vegetable accompaniment.  Luckily, Barbara had bought a tree of brussels sprouts from Madison's, and Holt had already taken the chewy leftover chestnuts from the Saturday before last and simmered them in chicken broth until they were REALLY tender, about a half hour. 
So we trimmed and halved 25 brussels sprouts (13 oz., according to our scales), and browned them a bit in butter and oil.  Then we  covered and simmered them with some chicken broth (and the chicken to rewarm) until tender.
Removed the chicken, threw in the chestnuts, and added a a big pat of butter and a Tbsp. of Canadian maple syrup (finest local medium-grade, from Matthew B. Martin, the Man in the Raccoon Cap at the St. Catharine's Farmers' Market). 
We like this even more than the bacon we did with this dish before; maybe next time we'll try it with maple syrup AND bacon.

Cold Smelts in Citrus Marinade

Tuesday 13 December
Years ago, when we were living in a (little, probably illegal) penthouse apartment in Rome, we depended on Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook (volume 1, paperback) for ideas on what to buy and how to cook it.  And that is why, when we got a couple of beautiful fresh trout that had just been fished out of a local stream by Anders, our director's son, we decided to gut them (outside at the sink on our terrace, which instantaneously brought every wasp in Rome flying in); fry them; and instead of eating them when they were fresh, put them aside and marinate them according to Marcella's recipe for "Cold Trout in Orange Marinade," to be eaten later.  The results were okay (not, as she says, "so remarkably good"), and we learned a valuable lesson.  First, when you have good fresh fish and good appetite, eat them immediately, don't make your own leftovers for the sake of some recipe.  Second, wasps have amazing powers of detecting fish guts.
Nonetheless, in this case we had actual leftovers, a half pound of Saturday's fried smelts.  So we sautéed a half a yellow onion, diced, in a pan until it was golden, then added a half cup of dry white Italian vermouth and the zest from a half an orange and let it bubble for a half minute or less.  Into that we stirred the juice squeezed from half the orange, juice from half a lemon, salt, and pepper, and again let it bubble for a half a minute.  At the last, some chopped parsley went in for color, and the whole thing got poured over the cold fish. 

It was served on a bed of arugula, garnished as Marcella advised with sections from the orange (or at least, the half that didn't get squeezed).
We appreciated the recipe far more this time, though we'd give our eyeteeth to try it - or anything - in Rome again.

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

Monday 12 December
Adapted from the recipe in New Joy. 
Halved one squash, cleaned out the seeds and strings, and baked in a 375º oven with a pat of butter and a drizzle of brandy in the center.  Basted occasionally over ca. 40 mins. 
In the meantime, browned 8 oz. of bulk sausage, added a chopped tart apple to the pan, and a Tbsp. of chopped fresh sage. 
When the squash is tender, scrape out the thickest part with a spoon, adding each bit to the pan with the sausage until the outside is evenly thin.  Also add a dose of brown sugar and pepper and salt to the pan, until it tastes like something you'd want to eat. 

Stuff the sausage mixture into the squash halves, and top with a streusel of brown sugar mixed with a pinch of mustard, salt and pepper.  Bake for another 20 mins.
Served with Trader Joe's cheapest: $2.99 worth of Vola Sangiovese, not too bad for the pennies it cost.

Roast Chicken and Fennel

Sunday 11 December
Again a little 3-pound fryer from Charles Bare meats, done in our new quick style: dried, rested open in the fridge, salted, and roasted at 450º on convect, which only took 30 minutes. 
The fennel went quickly too: just sliced and braised in butter and wine until sweet and tender.

Smelts and Sweet Potato Fries

Saturday 10 December
Smelts were $5/lb. at Lukens in Findlay Market.  We don't often get them this far inland, so we took advantage. 

This fish reminds us of Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest on SNL reminiscing about "Smelt Night" in the Negro Leagues; and if you're talking great little fish rather than funny skits, the heavenly, once-in-a-lifetime french-fried baby brook trout served at Scribner's near New Haven, yea, 20 years ago and more. 
For our particular Smelt Night we tried one of James Beard's tips: dip 'em in cream, then in seasoned breadcrumbs, then fry 'em.  We used panko, but I think that Beard died before panko was invented; in any case it didn't adhere very well, so the smelts were only half-breaded, though tasty for all that.  Next time, we'll substitute beaten egg and cornmeal, which might stick better.
The sweet potato fries were done as we said we would hereusing sweet smoked pimenton for paprika.  Still a mite limp for something billed as "fries," though perfectly edible.
We gobbled our smelts with a tartar sauce made with Holt's own cornichons.  There was no problem peeling the backbone out of each little fish, and the fins gave a nice crunch that the panko didn't ("crunchy frog heap good").  Still, a pound and a half was too much smelt to eat in one night, so we're saving the rest for a Marcella Hazan recipe (see Tuesday, above).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pot Roast

Friday 9 December
Julia Child's recipe is our go-to for the long-simmered pot roast.  So simple, so satisfying, and no pre-browning.  Our chosen vegetables were the classics: carrots, parsnips, and potatoes.
This actually overdid itself a bit (it was in the oven from 2-8:30 PM, after all) while we were out at the Holidays on Ludlow festival waiting for our annual carriage ride.  But thanks to Dr. Terri and the staff at Howell Avenue Pet Hospital for the sweets and cocoa that held body and soul together until we got home for dinner, and also for the toy for Dora, who prefers not to go to the vet even for a photo with Santa.

Farfalle With Gorgonzola, Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes

Thursday 8 December
A salad in a pan, by Mark Bittman.
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola - be generous
1/2 pound farfalle
1 cup or more arugula trimmed of very thick stems, washed, dried and chopped (ours was from Sharon's garden - thanks, Sharon!)
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. In a small saucepan gently warm the cream and Gorgonzola just until cheese melts a bit and mixture becomes thick; chunky is O.K.
2. When water boils, cook pasta until it is just tender but not mushy. Drain and return to pot over low heat.
3. Stir in Gorgonzola sauce along with arugula, tomatoes and a healthy dose of black pepper. Stir to combine, taste and add salt, if necessary, then serve immediately, with grated Parmesan if you like (we found it unnecessary).

The heat took the harsh taste out of the winter arugula, and had a nice creaminess, though next time we might add some extra gorgonzola right at the end, to give the flavor an extra boost.

Chicken Thighs in Champagne Sauce

Wednesday 7 December
This is one of our favorite recipes for chicken. 

We didn't have any sausage, so we did without; but we did have the special little white turnips we got from the Farmer's market.  They were the same kind we had had at Holt's birthday dinner at Chez Panisse, so we were going to treat them with respect.
We used four chicken thighs patted with fresh thyme, plus a little sliced onion, chopped garlic, sliced carrot, and parsley; the tinier turnips only needed to be halved, not cut into batons as we usually do. 

The dish was as savory and delicious as usual, and the turnips were so moist the flavor exploded in your mouth.  We are no Chez Panisse, but we do pretty well.

Tuna Steaks Puttanesca

Tuesday 6 December
Yes, it's Pasta Puttanesca without the pasta; and she must be a high-class call-girl if she can afford tuna steaks instead of the canned variety. 
We fried some anchovy fillets in their own oil, then added a clove of chopped garlic.  When all was golden and melted, threw in ca. 14 oz. canned crushed tomatoes, a handful of chopped black Moroccan olives, a shower of capers, and big sprinkles of oregano, salt and pepper; simmered for a while.  Then in another pan, browned two tuna steaks a minute or two per side, turned down the heat, piled them with the thick sauce, covered and simmered a few minutes until medium rare.
Tasted great on the tuna, but let's be honest: it would taste great on a slab of rubber.

Pork Medallions with Turnips and Greens

Monday 5 December
Though we've got rows of turnips growing out in the garden, Holt was enchanted by some select varieties displayed by a local farmer on Saturday.  So he got some medium ones, and some teeny white ones for Wednesday, all with greens so fresh we just had to cook them tonight. 

My thrifty eye had previously noted a recipe in Food and Wine that used both the turnips and the greens, so we tried it out.  It's really a dinner salad, done by a top chef with a lot of flavors you wouldn't ordinarily combine: not just turnips and greens but oranges and olives.

Verdict: you don't need the orange sections, spinach, or pecans; you can even do without the olive purée underneath, or just mix it in with the greens.
On the side, we had a couple of thick pork medallions dusted with fresh thyme leaves, quickly browned by frequently flipping them in a hot pan.

Penne ala Saffi

Sunday 4 December
This shows that Blogspot search doesn't work: I just searched for the name of our very favorite and most-made pasta, and it says that there are no posts matching the query: saffi.  So here is the old link.

Roast Chicken with Chestnuts and Brussels Sprouts

Saturday 3 December
We got a lovely little fryer chicken from Charles Bare, dried it thoroughly, sprinkled it with salt, and roasted it on convect at 450º; it was done in around 45 minutes, so we drizzled our own rosemary oil on it and let it rest in the warm oven for 15-20 minutes until the vedge was done.

Did I mention the vedge?  We had bought some American chestnuts at the Farmers' Market; they're smaller and lighter in color than the European kind you get in stores.  We were inspired to do a classic braise: chestnuts, brussels sprouts, and bacon. 
Holt cut the chestnut shells in an X and boiled the nuts until they could be peeled, about 3-5 minutes.  Further tips are here.
When it was time to prepare dinner, we fried up 1/8 lb. of chopped bacon, then braised it and the chestnuts in some chicken stock in the pan.  Finally some halved brussels sprouts and an herb bouquet of parsley and thyme went into the stock, and when the sprouts were done, so were we. 

Verdict: good, but the chestnuts were still chewy, so next time we'll let them boil or braise a good deal longer before the brussels sprouts go in.

Rigatoni alla Norma

Friday 2 December
After yesterday's meatfest, we went for a vegetarian meal, though in our opinion well-cooked eggplant is so tasty you won't miss that chunk of critter.
We cooked the sauce this waybut used fresh oregano leaves rather than basil; so the eggplant bits were sprinkled with dried basil leaves in exchange.  The hit of vinegar was white balsamic, the pasta was rigatoni, and at the end we sprinkled in crumbled asiago cheese for that eggplant-parm vibe.

Meat and Potatoes

Thursday 1 December
There are few things we like better than a thick steak (this time a choice boneless strip steak) frequently-flipped on our indoor grill until medium rare, served with a wodge of gorgonzola butter and some potatoes whipped up with cream and a dollop of horseradish.  
We are people of simple tastes (yeah, right).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

La Poste, Clifton

Wednesday 30 November
Our friend Nancy gave a talk on Pindar this evening, and we were happy to join the party to take her out to La Poste afterwards. 
La Poste doesn't change its menu much.  They always start by putting a plate of fried pita triangles and some hummus on the table.  One or two of the courses vary by season, but on the whole it's pretty repetitive, which is fine if you like what they offer.  For example, we had their scallop appetizer once again, with its tasty gorgonzola foam.   We've also had their veal sweetbreads, this time as an appetizer with roasted butternut squash, potato, pumpkin seeds, and pickled fennel. 
Our mains were a slightly bland lamb shank on creamy grits with shaved fennel, and crispy "airline chicken" (i.e. with the wing) on a bed of tarragon mashed potato lined with wild mushrooms, spinach, and Marsala sauce.  We don't often order chicken since we can make most types easily ourselves, but this was very succulent and its crust would be hard to duplicate.
Wine was a merlot from Bordeaux, Chateau Grand Rousseau.  How do you like those rhymes?

Chinese-style Pork with Green Peppers, plus Steamed Rice

Tuesday 29 November
We're pretty sure we've made this recently, so it should be on the blog.  But Blogspot's search engine has become so unreliable lately that the little box at the left top corner can't find older posts at all.  (If you're similarly stymied, by the way, try googling your search terms coupled with "holtandbarbara".  Google, unlike Blogspot, still works.) 
In the fridge were the last of Sharon's garden peppers and a packet of scrappy pork frozen, which prompted this dish. 
First, we set a half cup of long grain rice to cook.  Have we ever mentioned our simplest method of doing this before?  Blogspot won't tell me, so I'll just write it.  We take a small pot with tight cover, grease its inside with a leftover butter-wrapper kept for this purpose, put the rice and a dash of kosher salt in the pot, add twice the amount of water as rice, set on the fire until it just boils, and then cover tightly and set at lowest possible heat for 19 minutes.  At that point, uncover, fluff, and you're there.
We sliced the pork into small coins, then made same-size slices out of 2 onions, 5 little green peppers, and a carrot (with Holt's trademark notches dressing the latter up). 

Our mise-en-place continued with a clove of minced garlic and an equal amount of grated fresh ginger.  Half got mixed into the pork in its marinade (2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. Shao Xing wine, and a dusting of sugar and black pepper), the other half was used in the initial stir-frying of vedge, in this order: onion, peppers, garlic and ginger, carrot.  When the vedge was all bright, we popped in a block of veal broth until a couple of tablespoons melted, removed it, covered the wok, lowered the heat, and simmered until tender. 
Then we set the vedge aside in the warmer and stir-fried the pork; when no pink was left, we put two Tbsps. of black bean garlic sauce in center, cooked it briefly, re-added all vedge, and dressed the dish with sesame oil.  The black bean sauce gave it a nice edge, different from the ketchupy sweetness you want with green pepper beef.

Penne with Mushrooms, Ham, and Cream

Monday 28 November
This is a Marcella Hazan recipe, though from the Internet, not from one of our go-to copies.  It's perfect if you've got a leftover butt of Schad's ham, and I hope you do.
1/4 pound (okay, a pound) cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2/3 tablespoon shallot (actually a third of an onion), chopped fine
salt and white pepper
2 ounces (2 ounces) good ham, cut into narrow julienne strips
3-4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
grated romano cheese to taste (about 1/4 cup, with more to grate at table)
Put the shallot in a large skillet with 1 Tbsp. butter and cook over medium heat until it becomes golden. Turn up the heat to high and add mushrooms; cook until they have soaked up all the butter, then turn the heat down to low and add salt and pepper. Turn mushrooms over 2 or 3 times.  As soon as they release their juices, turn the heat up high and boil the liquid away, stirring frequently.
Turn the heat down to medium and cook the ham for about 1 minute. Add the cream and cook just long enough for it to become reduced and slightly thickened. Taste and correct salt and pepper.
Toss cooked pasta in the pan; remove from heat and toss with cheese.
The wildly inflated amounts of non-pastoid to pastoid items reflects the fact that this is a full meal for us, not a primo.

Sole with Cherry Tomatoes

Sunday 27 November
Jamie Oliver used four whole lemon soles, slashed to the bone. We would have done the same had we been near the Chapel Market (or Steve Hatt's) in Islington, but in Cincinnati all we had was a pound packet of Trader Joe's frozen fillets, defrosted.
Here's what went on and under them:
• 2 handfuls of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved (we eked them out with a couple of larger tomatoes, diced)
• 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• a handful of fresh oregano, leaves picked
• a bunch of scallions, trimmed and finely sliced (we used a quarter onion, diced)
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• salt and pepper
• 1 lemon, zested and halved
• extra virgin olive oil
• a handful of Moroccan black olives, pitted and chopped
• a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400º. In a bowl, mix up tomatoes, garlic, oregano, onion, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper, plus half the lemon zest and juice.  Loosen with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and mix well, then spread over the bottom of a large roasting tray. Place the fish on top.

Now add the olives, parsley, and the rest of the juice and zest to the bowl that the tomatoes were in. Loosen with a little olive oil and then divide this mixture among the fish, placing an equal amount on top of each fillet. Cook in the preheated oven for around 10 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the fish. Take it out when it just begins to flake in the thickest part.
Wonderful fresh flavors, even with frozen fillets.

Chili Mac 'n' Cheese

Saturday 26 November
One day as we were passing Sitwell's, a hippy-dippy Clifton coffee shop, Holt spotted that they were serving Chili Mac 'n' Cheese.  Anything billed as chili around here tends to be the Cincinnati version of sweet makaronia me kyma, but we actually needed an idea to flesh out a single portion of (our own genuine, New Mexican stylechili that we had left over from 7 November and frozen.  
This was the perfect thing to make for dinner after our five hour drive home from Tennessee, since it went together quickly and the oven helped heat up the house.

We defrosted the chili and put in the bottom of our second-largest round pyrex baker.  On top of it went 6 oz. of penne, boiled, in a cheese sauce made of 2 Tbsp. onion sautéed in 2 Tbsp. butter, dusted with 2 Tbsp. flour and browned as a roux.  Then add 1 cup milk, stir assiduously until thickened, and add 1/2 cup each asiago and coljack cheese.  Top the dish with 1/2 cup grated coljack, and bake at the People's temperature, first 30 mins. covered and then uncovered till bubbly and brown.
Not prepossessing, but good and homey.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Recovering from Thanksgiving

Friday 25 November
Everyone was a mite languid today, especially those who headed out at midnight for the Black Friday sales and didn't get back until the wee hours.  The Shaffers had to head for home early, so as we were in charge of dinner, we served it at midday. 
We started with big bowls of turkey soup we'd made from the carcass that Dora hadn't jumped in the night before, cooked slowly in our traditional fashion with onion, peppercorns, and sage the previous evening, now livened up with diced zucchini.  Dora enjoyed supervising, played nicely with any bit of paper she found, and made friends with everyone.

The second course was our homemade pesto on linguine.  There was also a big salad with bag-ripened tomatoes and sliced cucumber, keeping it light after all the holiday indulgences.  That didn't stop anyone from hitting the dessert buffet afterwards, however. 

Thanksgiving in Tennessee

Thursday 24 November
Pretty much the whole Parker family (except for the newlyweds) were able to gather for the holiday, and that's the first thing to be thankful for.  Normally David deep-fries a couple of turkeys, but with peanut oil at $10 a gallon, we went the conservative route of roasting a 16-lb. bird (one pound per participant) that was injected with teriyaki sauce for flavor. 

All the traditional favorites were laid out alongside: Becky's cornbread and sausage dressing, 10 pounds of Joanna's mashed potatoes with lashings of butter, and her broad beans with cream and bacon in the crockpot; fresh cranberry orange relish, as well as the stuff out of the can; David's turkey gravy; and tender hot rolls.

As soon as we recovered from turkey torpor, the dessert buffet was raided for all the delicious specialties: Becky's pumpkin pie and pecan pie, Laura's pumpkin dump cake and cheesecake, Jo Linn's buttermilk fudge, Jacob's truffles of all flavors, and JoDee's puppy chow. 
It was a wonderful evening for food and family, cards and chatting, and Dora behaved quite well and didn't attempt to jump into the turkey carcass.  

International Soup Night

Wednesday 23 November
We hadn't been back from San Francisco all that long before we were driving off to Tennessee (bringing Dora on her first long car ride) for a family Thanksgiving.  We got there at around dusk.  Jo Linn served Mexican Tortilla Soup, and Laura served Italian tortellini in tomato soup, so we felt warm and welcomed.

Chicken Involtini Stuffed with Chard

Tuesday 22 November
We really prefer bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, but keep a few bland boned and skinless types in the freezer for emergencies.  Holt decided to made a virtue of necessity by whacking the chicken flat and rolling it up with stuffing. 

We chiffonaded and sautéed a bunch of chard (stems first, then garlic, then leaves) from the garden, doused them with a little cream, seasoned them, and toothpicked the beaten breasts around the stuffing.  We browned them in the hot pan, then turned down the heat, covered the pan, and simmered them with some chopped fresh tomatoes and a splash of wine until the chicken was good and done. 

While the involtini were set aside in the warming oven, we made a pan sauce of the tomatoes, some heavy cream and butter, and there it was.

Tuna Steaks with Cherry Tomato Topping

Monday 21 November
We still have lots of garden cherry tomatoes ripening (at room temperature, in paper bags; the big trick is to have an apple in there to encourage them).  So we used our crop to dress up some frozen Trader Joe's 'ahi tuna steaks, and this was the plan.
Heat the oven to 400º.  Mix about 2 Tbsp. olive oil with 4 Tbsp. balsamic and season with S&P.  Put the tomatoes on a baking tray and pour the balsamic mixture over.  Roast for around 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet to hot.  Season and lightly oil the tuna steaks, then cook for a minute or two on each side, flipping twice or less so that they're nice and rare inside.  Serve with the tomatoes and balsamic oil drizzled over.

Penne with Asparagus and Lemon Cream Sauce

Sunday 20 November
Back from a long but fortunately nonstop flight from San Francisco, we started by opening a bottle of Four Vines Zinfandel to warm ourselves up in a cold house. 
Then we got the pasta pot on, because we'd left a bouquet of fresh asparagus in a jar of water in the fridge for a dish of penne with asparagus in lemon cream sauce.  First boiled the asparagus and netted it from the boiling water, so a batch of penne could go in; and in a saucepan, combined a pat of butter with a healthy glug of heavy cream, letting it bubble and thicken gently, then added a lemon's worth of zest and a shot of lemon vodka.  When the penne were done, they and the asparagus went into the cream sauce and got a little grated romano for topping.  It stood up well to the red wine, and made us happy to be home again. 

Chez Panisse

Saturday 19 November
We knew that we were going to spend Holt's double-nickel birthday on a plane flying out of San Francisco, so Barbara had to arrange something specially celebratory for the night before.  (The same had gone for the 1997 ASOR meetings in Napa, when we had booked our table at the French Laundry four months ahead.) 
This time we went for Chez Panisse Restaurant, one of America's top tables. 
You have to book exactly one month in advance, eat whatever they want to give you, and pay $95 prix fixe, all of which is actually sort of reasonable.  It gives the chefs the freedom to use all their much-lauded fresh local organic ingredients, since they know ahead of time exactly how much of everything they'll need to feed everyone.  (Actually, we heard some people at the next table turning down their meat course because they were "too full" [what silicon-enriched simpleton eats too much of anything before going to Chez Panisse?!] and the waiter kindly offered to bring them a plate of special vegetables, which are presumably ordered for just such an emergency.)
We traveled in the rain via foot and BART train, which offers stupid ticket machines, little signage, and the sort of seamy derelict experience you can no longer get on the New York subway.  We arrived at the restaurant wet-footed, draggled and hungry, but found friendly staff to unwind us from our wrappings and hide our umbrellas while we consulted the wine list.  Then we were seated at a corner banquette by a waiter with an accent like Michel's on "Gilmore Girls," and presented with a couple of menus by the artist Patricia Curtan, so beautiful that there is now a book of them.
The waiter poured us a citrusy aperitif from a decanter nearby, and brought us our first course: Bellwether Farms' sheep's milk ricotta (with a nice smear of honey), along with fall vegetables dressed with a vinaigrette with crushed coriander seeds, including tender little white turnips, whose raw counterparts were piled on a plate on the sideboard. 
There would be both fish and red meat, so it seemed best to choose a Pinot Noir: a 2008 Kendric, from Marin County (think global, drink local).
The fish course was a succulent lump of halibut, wrapped in a leaf of savoy cabbage like the apotheosis of cabbage rolls everywhere.  It was involuted with lobster butter and little tips of lobster meat, and tasted divine. 
Then came slabs of Piedmontese ribeye beef, spit-roasted in the wood fire that was burning in the fireplace ten feet from where we sat, dripping with Beaujolais sauce, set beside a crispy potato cake and chanterelle mushrooms.
Finally, for dessert, a tartlet of black Mission figs set like dark jewels in pate-brisée , herb-scented with Chartreuse ice cream.
We lingered until most others were gone, and after a long look at the open kitchen, ventured out on the rain washed streets, back to the BART station and the last train back to our hotel.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Family Reunion at the Daily Grill

Friday 18 November
We were actually able to grab a dim sum lunch today, at the branch of the much lauded Yank Sing on Stevenson Street, only a few blocks from the ASOR hotel.  Though their turnip cake was not outstanding, they had excellent soup dumplings, minced chicken in pinked-edge lettuce cups, and scallion rolls, here in the foreground, which we've never seen anywhere else but seem to be a Chinese take on spanakopita.

That evening, we met with Barbara's family at the Daily Grill, right across the street from our hotel.  It's a chain, but has the friendly feel of an original. 
It was mainly Ungers, Barbara's grandmother's family.  Most (Gail, Susan and her husband Kem, Judy, her husband Scott, and kids Aaron and Melanie) were from the SF area, but Aunt Phyllis had driven down all the way from Oregon. 

We were a big, rowdy, happy crowd, enjoying our choice of white and red wine.  We started by splitting an endive salad, then went on to a 16 oz ribeye steak with peppers and onions on top, accompanied by garlic mashed potato, and "chicken under a brick" with rice pilaf and spinach with onions and mushrooms.  There were many stories, many laughs, and some late harvest Viogner and Chardonnay for dessert.  Eventually we had to  head across the street to the Westin, as Barbara's paper was the next day, but we loved our San Francisco family reunion. 

Sam's Grill in San Francisco

Thursday 17 November
San Francisco is supposed to be a great town for food, but when we began to search our Chowhound-approved options, we found that many of these places were far away, closed outlandishly early, or were only open for lunch.  But we called Sam's Grill (opened 1867) and were told that the kitchen would close as late as 8:45, so we scuttled uphill and down to get there in time. 
We asked for a booth, and got one - the sort that have curtains and a doorbell for calling the waiter, probably very naughty in the 1890s.  All the waiters had rich Italian accents, and the menu made good reading, referring to "oyster pirates like the young Jack London."
We started with Acacia chardonnay 2008 and a dozen oysters - good, though the shucker left too much muscle attached, and they were tilted so that they spilled their juices.  Instead of the usual ketchup and horseradish, they were served with Worcestershire - so we just used a drizzle of lemon, as usual.
Our mains: Petrale (sole) meuniere, very sweet and tender floured fillets in lemon sauce, and the amazing boned rex (sole) a la Sam, seemingly hundreds of tiny boned fillets, more resilient than the petrale, cooked simply with parsley and garlic.  There was also excellent tartar sauce, but it was too rich for the fish, so we dipped our roasted potatoes and sourdough bread instead.
On the way home, one street guy said Barbara was "rockin' that haircut," and a street poet accompanied us wishing we would adopt him.  We loves San Francisco.

Leftover Pumpkin Casserole

Wednesday 16 November
We had to take a late plane for the ASOR meetings in San Francisco, so before we left, we ate the rest of the pan of Sunday's Chilean Pumpkin Casserole.  Filling, and still sincere.

Pork Medallions with Roasted Baby Artichokes

Tuesday 15 November
Once again we got the package of baby artichokes from Kroger, but this time we had Dora the Explorer around to supervise the preparation. 

It was done much as before, but the pork scaloppine were dotted with fresh thyme and sage, untouched by flour or capers.

Chicken with Beets and Sweets

Monday 14 November
Having eaten the breasts of our roast chicken on Saturday, we had the thighs and drumsticks today, reheated and served with a new take on Beets and Sweets.
The beets had been baked in the oven while the pumpkin casserole was roasting, as usual.  The sweet potato was just peeled, sliced into batons, tossed in oil and salt, and roasted in a 425º oven for about a half hour.  Then we cut the beets into similar batons, tossed the two together, and dressed them in the Moroccan fashion that Daniel and Junko taught us.
Savory and sweet, can't be beet.

Chilean Pumpkin Casserole

Sunday 13 November
In our usual fashion, we bought a sincere pie pumpkin from a Findlay Market farmer, and it served as a table centerpiece and cat amuser up until Halloween.
Yesterday, we cut it open and roasted it in the chickeny oven, in preparation for today's meal, adapted from the butternut squash version of Mollie Katzen's original Moosewood cookbook. 

Chilean Pumpkin Casserole

1 small pumpkin
1 cup chopped onion
2 -3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 -2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 -2 dashes cayenne pepper
1 cup red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups grated coljack cheese
Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds, and bake cut sides up (why let all the liquid out?) at 425° for 45- 50 minutes until soft.  Lower heat to 350°, and let pumpkin cool.  Scrape pulp out of the shell, and mash up.
Meanwhile, sauté onion, garlic and spices in olive oil until onion is translucent.  Add peppers and salt, stir, cover and leave on low heat 5 min.  Mix beaten eggs into mashed squash, stir into pepper mixture, add cheese, and stir until incorporated.  Bake in 350° oven for about 20 mins. covered and 20 more uncovered. 
This was hearty and warming, making a fine main dish, though it would also be an okay side for a potluck.  What's more, it made enough for two meals.