Monday, April 25, 2011

New Year's Eve Celebration for Two

No, you're not reading wrong - it's not January 1 2011 again, and we didn't have 78 dinners in April. Fact is, this blog fell WAY into the weeds, and it took from August 2010 until the end of April 2011 for us to catch up and post to this point.

Since April is now so full, we'll wait until May to post the backlog of 2011. But we hope that you and our other reader (how we appreciate his visiting our site, considering he only has a half-hour in the prison library) will be able to get all the mind-numbing details of our culinary life very soon.

Fri. Dec. 31

For the end of the year, we had two inch and a half thick beef tenderloins, simply grilled until crusty outside and rare inside.

Along with that, potato galettes with thick yogurt and lox.

To drink, a half bottle of our own Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1989, bought in 1991 for $17.50 the half bottle. It's still drinking strong, fruity and bold after 20 years, though Holt had to nimbly decant it to avoid the raisin pie at the neck and base.

Later, at midnight, a bottle of Segura Viudas pink cava, and Holt's chocolate-drizzled bed. A very happy new year.

Turkey à la King

Thurs. Dec. 30

The great sullen chunk of protein (you're a genius, Peg Bracken) sitting in the fridge is currently the turkey breast from Christmas Day. We try to have it only every other day, and to make it as different as possible.

In this case, we hearkened back to Barbara's memory of her a beloved childhood dish, Chicken à la King, as experienced at age 10 or so in the restaurant of the Charter House Motel in Alexandria VA, on a summer trip to Washington DC. So sixties.

In this case, it was a stripped-down version: a half pound of sliced mushrooms, sautéed in oil and butter in a big pan; a red pepper, blistered on the gas ring and sliced and diced, thrown in with it; some flour on top to make a roux, and a little chicken broth and sherry to form a slurry; finally a big douse of heavy cream, and pulled-apart turkey breast pieces on top. Tasty, but bland, just as it's supposed to be.

Lamb Hash

Weds. Dec. 29

Something to warm the house while the furnace gets replaced. Cubed lamb, with turnips as well as potato, and plenty of fresh thyme from the plants poking out of the snow.

Turkey and Yams

Tues. Dec. 28

A reheat of Saturday's greatest hits. We used up all the tasty triple-gingered yams in this feast on the remains, thus depriving ourselves of the chance to make a dinner entry entitled "Lamb, Ham, and Yams." And perhaps jam, but no spam (or vikings).

Anyway, the lamb's for tomorrow.

Linguine with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Cream

Mon. Dec. 27

Just like this, but with mushrooms too.

Boxing Day Soup

Sun. Dec. 26

Everybody drove off, so it's just us again. A simple soupy dinner of turkey broth with dried tortellini boiled up in it, along with shredded duck and turkey meat and some chopped zucchini.

Christmas Dinner

Sat. Dec. 25

A simple Christmas dinner for five.

A boned turkey breast stuffed with sage, prosciutto, and cornbread dressing;

the rest of the cornbread on its own;

triple-gingered sweet potatoes (a nubbin of stem ginger in syrup, a chunk of fresh ginger, both minced, and a sprinkling of ground ginger, with a dose of dark maple syrup and a couple of tablespoons of butter, all melted together and poured over the rounds of baked yams in a buttered dish, which is then run under the broiler for about 10 mins until it bubbles);

and other vedge (carrots, garlic, red and regular onions, parsnips) roasted around the turkey.

We made Barbara's classic cranberry chutney, which was enlivened by Jo Linn's blood; and pumpkin clafouti, made with more pumpkin guts (they'd been frozen for over a year now, it was time to let go) and one less egg.

The wine was a Chateau Paveil de Luze 2000 Margaux, which is delicious, but Holt can't remember where he got it.

Salmon fillet with Teriyaki Sauce

Fri. Dec. 24

Any kind of salmon is good for us, and Harold likes his with teriyaki or some other sweet sauce. The teriyaki sauce was a mix of soy, shao xing wine, and a blort of hoisin sauce, basted on the salmon to start and then added just before the end, when you brown it under the broiler.

Beets were adapted from the recipe Daniel and Junko sent us.

Moroccan Beets

6 to 8 medium beets

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin, or to taste

Salt and black pepper

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Wash beets, and place in 2 or 3 little sealed-up foil packets. Put in 350-400 oven until you can pinch them and feel them give a little. Cool, and rub peel off with paper towel or hands (if you like that beet-henna look). Cut into bite-size pieces and put in a serving bowl.

Place lemon juice, garlic, cumin and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil, then toss with beets. Let sit a few hours.

Dessert was Holt's coconut macaroons.

Peking Duck Ravioli

Thurs. Dec. 23

This was Barbara's inspiration, and we actually had all the makings from leftovers.

We started with the duck carcass of a few days ago, using it (and a bay leaf and a few celery tops) to make broth, which we chilled and separated the fat from (save the fat! We always freeze it in a tupper).

Reheated the clear broth with a shredded leek from the garden, while the pickings from the bones were chopped up and mixed with a pinch of five-spice, a dribble of soy sauce, some hoisin, and a little of the duck fat.

That made the filling for Holt's homemade ravioli.

It was served in bowls of tasty broth, to us and to Harold, who arrived this afternoon (Jo Linn and Miles will get savory bowls of lamb stew from the slow cooker).

Amazing. Any neo-gastronaut chef could get $30 a bowl for this stuff.

Breaded duck legs with mashed potatoes and garden leeks

Tues Dec. 21

The duck legs and thighs were cooked according to Julia. She gives the duck an initial roasting at the People's Temperature for 30 minutes, then separates the legs and thighs from the carcass, paints them with a lick of Dijon mustard, and rolls them in fresh crumbs (we used panko). Then they go back into the upper third of a 400 degree oven to roast for about a half hour more, until tender. Once they were out and resting, we deglazed the pan with dried cranberries from Beamer's in Canada, plumped with Madiera. And leeks from the garden - in a very cold late December. Mashers on the side, for comfort and completion.

Dinner at Julie's

Weds. Dec. 22

A lovely pre-Christmas dinner to honor Julie's brand new kitchen. Kathy's appetizers: herbed bocconcini and a two-salmon schmear to put on flaxseed wafers. Holt's cornichons added a nice sour smack. And Barbara and Russel just ate and appreciated.

At Julie's festive table, we had her main courses of saag aloo and chicken tikka masala, plus wines chosen just for Indian food, like gewurtztraminer and Beaujolais

Dessert was Holt's coconut macaroons with chocolate drizzle.

As always, dinner with this gang was better than good.

Dinner at Liz's

Mon Dec. 20

We gathered at Liz's house for dinner on a snowy night, along with Billur, Jeff, and Beth. Appetizers included an odd one of cranberries and orange peel in sour cream on crackers, and also tiny spanakopitas.

Our main course was Nigella Lawson's thighs (chicken - what did you think?) and roast herbed potatoes. It featured homemade chorizo - Liz, we're so impressed!

Then we refreshed ourselves with a salad with honey mustard dressing.

Many desserts: Holt's Kentucky nutcake; Liz's pumpkin mousses with black walnuts; Graeter's vanilla ice cream; and Christmas cookies.

Duck breasts with fig chutney and potato "chips" in duck fat

Sun Dec. 19

This one was Holt's inspiration, based on our acquisition of a whole duck at Luken's in Findlay Market yesterday. As usual, since each part of the duck takes a different amount of time to cook, we took it apart and did the breasts first, sauté/broiling it until just done. Then we deglazed with Lisa Sainsbury's homemade fig chutney - thanks, Lisa!

In the meantime, we sliced potatoes thin with the Benriner and crisped them on the stovetop in deepish duckfat. Lip-smackingly good.

Leg of Lamb and Roast Vegetables

Sat. Dec. 18

Holt boned out the lamb leg, rubbed the meat with mustard and rosemary as Julia does, and roasted the meat and the bone, so that we could make a lamb stew for Jo Linn and Miles's late arrival on Christmas Eve eve. The vedge that roasted around the lamb were potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, and of course onions.

Napas with Mash and Onion Sauce

Fri Dec. 17

A standard in these here parts. We had the same thing almost exactly a year ago, because it fits the Christmas rush.

Red and Yellow Roasted Tomato Soups

Thurs. Dec. 16

Holt made these up, using yellow tomatoes with turmeric and a dash of curry powder; and red tomatoes with cumin and coriander and chile de Nuevo Mexico.

Both sets were roasted (separately) with onions and garlic, then pureed.

Poured into each side of a single bowl, to make a yang-and-yin symbol.

The lovely bowls of dual soup were more elegant than an elegant thing.

Penne with Zucchini, Cream, and Salami

Weds. Dec. 15

Another quick fave.

Chilaquiles reprise

Tues Dec. 14

See last Saturday. We always have enough for 2 days.

Stir-fried pork, broccoli, onions, and carrots with hoisin

Mon. Dec. 13

Barbara's off-the-cuff stirfry. Because we had the broccoli, and everything else.

Acorn squash with sausage stuffing

Sun. Dec. 12

The classic that we've messed with forever.

Christmas Chilaquiles

Sat. Dec. 11

Chilaquiles are our great fallback for any leftover Mexican ingredients, this time with green (tomatillo) and red (tomato) salsas; and fresh coriander picked from the garden. In mid-December!!!!

Beans, part Deux

Fri. Dec. 10

After an hour of waiting on line for the Clifton holiday carriage rides. Thank god for the free Esquire popcorn they were giving out, and a quick reheat of Tuesday's beans when we got home.

Beef Tenderloin and Potatoes

Thurs. Dec. 9

Also imported from Canada, even with its pat of blue cheese herbed butter. I'm here now, you can't get me, customs agents.

Ragu for Two

Weds. Dec. 8

Originally for one, as this was a tupper of homemade bolognese sauce frozen in Canada and transported here; and made even better by adding half a can of tomatoes left over from making the pot roast. Served on spaghetti, of course, for the classic Spag Bol of our Australian friends.

Are You Cookin' Beans

Tues Dec. 7

We have no idea why David Letterman, in his more Tourettic moments of channeling George W. Bush, intones "Are you cookin' beans? Is Zorro on?" Nonetheless, we can't stop saying it, even though our beans, slow-simmered in the crockpot, are good, honest, and did not, as George W. did, break the world.

Reunited Pot Roast

Mon. Dec. 6

Barbara loaded most of her earthly possessions in the car and drove south through slush and snowsqualls to a joyous reunion, and a potroast.

Home for the holidays - hurray!

Ballet, and Dinner at Roberto's

Sun. Nov. 28

After a nice mixed program at the Canadian National Ballet with Roberto and Gerard, Roberto had us back to his house for a savory dinner of pasta with eggplant (as served at Harry's Bar in Venice) and a nice mixed salad; dessert was homemade applesauce with maple syrup. Thanks, Roberto!

And then Holt had to leave again...but Brock term will end soon, and Barbara will drive home for not just Christmas, but the whole term!

Dinner at Martha and Don's

Saturday Nov. 27

We drove across the border, stopping at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, but the main treat was dinner with friends at Don and Martha's. They are great cooks and thinkers about food, so we love getting together with them.

We started with appetizers of salume and olive-oil dressed almonds (and wine, of course). Then we went to the classic Marcela Hazan recipe that we first had with them, Pork and porcini stew.

You need something bland to soak up the rich flavors of the stew, so we had mashed potatoes, as well as a wonderful dish of roasted acorn squash and carrots (2/3 to 1/3), seasoned with cumin and chipotle peppers. An arugula salad gave a nice arresting zing to clear the palate, and for dessert, there was a choice of wine poached or vanilla poached pears with ice cream, and good coffee.

A marvelous time was had by us all, and we hummed all the way back to Canada.


Friday Nov. 26

Ally, Dave, and Katharine came for dinner. First, we had some cava with Appetizers: grape tomatoes and olives, brie and crackers, baguette with bleu cheese, parsley and pepper butter.

First course: warm Greek shrimp salad (with feta, sauteed red onion and red and green peppers, and halved grape tomatoes).

Second course: bundles of sole stuffed with asparagus and wrapped with leeks, with caper butter.

Dessert was Pouding Chômeur

Barbara chickened out at the last minute so we didn't pour all the maple sauce in, but it could have used it - delicious anyway.

A Canadian American Thanksgiving

Thurs Nov. 25

A nice (though skinless) half turkey breast, the last one left at Lococo's, coated with ground-up rosemary and sage and baked with batons of turnip and potato in a hot oven with some broth; and creamed leeks. A nice quiet Thanksgiving feast for two.

Ground pork and baby bok choy

Wednesday Nov. 24

Holt's back, in record time.

We've done this combo before, but this was slightly different: we started stir-frying sliced onions, then added minced garlic and ginger, and then the ground pork, which had been marinating in soy, wine, and pepper. Finally we added the bok choy in chopped-up form, first the stems and a dose of broth to steam in, and finally the greens for a mere minute of simmer. Pretty damn good, too.

Yet another thing to do with red cabbage

Sunday Nov. 14

While we dining at Liz and Justin's, Liz showed us the Olives and Oranges cookbook by Sara Jenkins, and what do you know - there was another recipe that used red cabbage. We scribbled it down on a sticky, and cooked it the next night.

Pasta with Bacon, Red Cabbage, Toasted Walnuts, and Rosemary

1/2 T unsalted butter

1/4 c. walnuts, chopped (we would have used pecans but we were out, so we used cashews. So sue us.)

1 T fresh rosemary, chopped

4 slices bacon, chopped up (we used applewood-smoked, for extra...something)

ca. 3/4 pounds red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

1/2 t salt

1/2 c heavy cream

1 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or crumbs)

1/2 pound bucatini

parsley for garnish

salt & pepper to taste

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add chopped walnuts and fresh rosemary and cook and stir until the walnuts are toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Start boiling water for spaghetti or bucatini; put the pasta in however long before everything is done that it takes to cook. Do I make myself obscure?

Brown bacon in a biggish pan over medium-low heat. Add cabbage and salt and cook until wilted, about 8-10 minutes. Add wine, cream, and walnuts and cook for a minute. The recipe then adds about a half cup of water, which is nuts, because you then reduce it until you might as well have not added the water. Come on, just thicken the cream until it's saucelike, about 10 minutes. Finally, you add the bacon and most of the cheese, then toss the pasta in and move it about until thoroughly mixed. Add more cheese and parsley and salt and pepper. It's surprisingly good.

And then, the next day, Holt had to fly away - but he'll soon be back for the other Thanksgiving.

Dinner at Liz and Justin's

Saturday Nov. 13

Liz and Justin had just gotten back from several weeks in Sicily, looking at underwater wrecks to excavate. (Boy, this business is harsh.) They kindly invited us, Ally, and Dave over for some Sicilian-inspired cooking.

There were all sorts of savory snacks, including bottarga and air-dried beef, as appetizers. The rest of the meal followed in several fine piscivorous courses, featuring fragrant mussels in tomato broth and giant succulent shrimp.

We had brought a red cabbage slaw made according to this recipe. And Liz made it into a perfect plate with a leafy salad - a mound of red, a mound of green.

The final touch was Sicilian cassate stuffed with chocolate studded cream and covered with light green fondant, beyond rich and sweet. Justin helped make the fondant, and he says he can eat them every day. I am right there with him on that.

Giant rib roast

Friday Nov. 12

Tonight we had Lisa and John Sainsbury over for dinner, which we'd been meaning to do for a while. We snacked for a while on cashews, olives, Holt's own cornichons, and artichoke-goat cheese dip, while we discussed the many meetings we had had to crawl through to get where we were.

For dinner, we gave them the Roast Beef of Olde Canada, a giant chunk of rib marbled with lip-smackingly unctuous fat. Around it had been roasted the usual (but still unctuous) yellow potatoes, baby turnips, onions, and multicolored carrots - the purple ones actually turned black in the oven.

Dessert was cranberry-pecan biscotti baked by Holt, occasionally dipped into Cornelius Applejack - that is, Holt was, not the biscotti. And that's all we remember.

Red cabbage, kielbasa, and apples

Thursday Nov. 11

Holt came in for a visit to find that Barbara had bought a red cabbage the size of a bowling ball from Beamer's at the St. Catharines Farmers' Market. She had to get on the human-size scales to weigh it, and it was 7 pounds. So we've got to get rid of it somehow.

Tonight's way was the classic red cabbage, sausage and apples. Actually all those came from the farmers' market, but we didn't realize that the kielbasa had an inedible skin on it. So those little rounds took a lot of peeling.

Champagne Cruise

Sunday 10 October

We'd been exploring Island Bob's old barn earlier that day, so he and Renée came over in the afternoon, and Michael took us all out in the boat for a cocktail cruise on the lake. We laughed, we basked, we drank champagne or beer according to taste. It was just that kind of day.

Happy and slightly pixilated, we came back to the house and made roasted butternut squash stuffed with herbs, mushrooms and potato. Dessert, as best I recall, was scotch or applejack. Things got hazy after that.

And the next day was Canadian Thanksgiving, which we had to spend going back to Brock or Cincinnati, respectively.

(interval of extreme suckage follows)

Golden Harvest Day

Saturday 9 October

On our busy out-and-about day, we stopped by Golden Harvest Farms.

Along with the pyramids of pumpkins and fragrant baskets of apple cider doughnuts, we picked up a couple of butternut squash for later and a bottle of Cornelius applejack fresh from the amazing German-made copper still at the back of the apple farm.

Dinner was straightforward and simple: a grilled steak, baked potato, and brussels sprouts cut from the tree that grew on the apple farm.

Etoufée at Maggie and Michael's

Friday 8 October

We took this weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving to fly (in Holt's case) or drive (in Barbara's) to see Maggie and Michael at The Lake. It was so good to get together, and we had several memorable days of odd hats, kittehs, eloquence, old barns, old friends, and of course happily shared dinners.

Our arrival night featured a savory chicken and sausage etoufée, which we made according to Michael's directions, inspired by something he saw on the food network and was running with. Results: a taste of the Big Easy, but upstate.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dinner at the Wiebes

Wednesday 15 September

A great early-fall potluck dinner with the Wiebes and the Toewses, though the hostess Patty did most of the heavy lifting: pot roast and gravy, squash with apples, mace and brown sugar, mashed potatoes, golden carrots, nut bread, Joanne's fresh tomatoes and amazing lemon mascarpone cheesecake with graham cracker crust, decorated with raspberries, mint leaves, and lemon zest. With it we drank Magnotta merlot, from the vineyard down the street. It's the best side of Niagara - especially the friends. Thanks, Patty, Ben, Joanne and Dave!

The next day Holt had to leave, so there is a sad, sad interval until Holt and Barbara can have dinner together again.

Shrimp with Corn and Red Peppers

Tuesday 14 September

On Saturday, we boiled up four ears of gold-and-silver corn (still not tired of summer corn). We cut the kernels off, and mixed them with a half a red onion, diced; a smidgen of parsley; oil; lime, salt. Then today we fried up a couple of diced red shepherds' peppers, and when they were half done threw in a pound of peeled raw shrimp. Mixed up and served as a salad, which it almost was. Ah, the taste, beauty, and ease of summer.

Dinner at Inn on the Twenty with Martha and Don

Monday 13 September

Today was the opening of Brock's International Building, new home of the Classics Department. Barbara was part of the welcoming committee, and gave a talk to introduce the new Cypriote Museum display cases that she and the students had just set up. We were so glad that Martha and Don could drive in and represent SUNY Buffalo for the festivities that we just had to go out and celebrate afterward.

Our choice was the luxe Inn on the Twenty, a standard-bearer for local food and wine on the Escarpment.

Our wine was a 2007 Gamay Cave Spring - whose cellars are right next door.

Starters were seared sea scallops on golden cauliflower pureé, olive oil poached cipollini, and "vierge sauce"; and milk fed veal marsala with braised (but unfortunately flavorless) lobster mushrooms, a big pecorino arrancino, and Marsala jus.

One main course was a merlot-brined venison chop served with flavorful triple-crunch mustard spaetzle, sturdy greens, and Coronation grape gastrique. The venison chop was fine, but there were a couple of overdone venison slices too - what was that about?

The other was smoked Lakeland Meats duck breast with a Four Corners garden tower (red and yellow peppers, mushroom duxelles, onion, fennel), fresh basil, heirloom beans and Parmesan tea (broth).

We ate, and gossiped, and drank to our extreme satisfaction.

Mexican Dinner with Ally and Dave

Sunday 12 September

Ally and Dave have a new house, and invited us over for a lovely dinner, which started on their patio. The wine was a great white Rully (Moby wine?), and we brought Holt's focaccia with olives, sage, and Hawaiian pink sea salt. Dinner was burritos with great black bean filling, roast peppers and portobellos, pico de gallo, guacamole, oven-spiced tofu, crema, and a whole bunch of other fillings, which they got from the Rebar Café cookbook.

And we ended the meal with roasted white peaches with local Comfort Cream cheese and pecans. Thanks, Ally and Dave, for a splendid summer meal.

Steak and Corn

Saturday 11 September

Holt found a WHOLE BEEF TENDERLOIN at 6.99 a lb. at Zehrs! Carved off inch and a half steaks, and pan-fried them in butter and oil. Tender and lush, served with silver and gold corn fresh from the farmers' market. We're still not tired of it.

Sausage with Shepherds' Peppers and Onions

Thursday 9 September

Mild Italian sausages from Antipasto's, just fried with the usual trimmings. Dessert of delicious little peach cobblers in cups.

Cat's Caboose

Friday 10 September

Undoubtedly the worst restaurant in the region - and I don't know why our department keeps going there for its "graduate welcome pub nights." Petrified-battered fish and chips, and a lump of anthracite disguised as a hamburger with flaccid "buffalo chips," all served tepid or cold. I'm told the owners are Brock professors and councilmembers. They should go back to that instead of pretending to run a restaurant.

Veal Shoulder Roast Reprise

Wednesday 8 September

Katharine came to dinner - leftovers from two days ago tasted even better than when they started. Dessert of peaches and pecans.

Fusilli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Tuesday 7 September

Roasted a clove of garlic, an onion, a tomato, and a couple of red bell peppers in the oven, till charred. Peeled, and threw into the blender. Add a shot of olive oil, and maybe some balsamic vinegar, and you've got a great sauce for pasta.

Veal Shoulder Roast

Monday 6 September

We forget now where we got this - probably Antipastos, as they're the only place in Canada where we'll buy veal. But we roasted it with turnips, onions, potatoes, and carrots.

Sockeye Salmon with Caper-Anchovy Butter

Sunday 5 September

They thought they were going to get 10,000 salmon in BC, but they got 30,000 - so beautiful, dark-colored sockeye was on special at the Canadian Superstore. We did it this way.

With Yukon gold potatoes - but that's not Canadian Truth in Advertising, since they're not really from the Yukon, so they're just called yellow-fleshed, which sounds a bit pervy Limehouse.

Steaks at The Keg

Saturday 4 September

After an 8-hour drive and a border crossing, we generally stop at the Keg in St. Catharines for a heartening steak dinner. One of our mains was Steak Oscar, with shrimp, scallops, and a slutted up potato. And the special, a filet mignon with mushroom and blue cheese sauce, garlic mashed potatoes. The wine: Cave Spring meritage. Whew.

Onion and Ham Frittata

Friday 3 September

Our typical production, made with whatever is on hand. Also featured leftover mashed potato pancakes rolled in panko and fried, and our last garden tomato salad. Tomorrow we drive to Canada, so it's clean out the fridge night.

Grilled steak and corn

Thursday 2 September

It's summer, so we try to have corn as often as we can. And steak goes without saying.

Feta-Stuffed Yellow Tomatoes

Wednesday 1 September

We're trying to use as many of the yellow stuffer tomatoes from the garden as we can, before we have to drive up to the Great White North. So basically used this recipe.

But we slutted it up, a little heavy-handedly, with chopped oil-cured sundried tomatoes. Basil too, but you can never have enough basil.

Pork Piccata with Beet Salad

Tuesday 31 August

Just some little pork scaloppine, cooked as we've done them before, with the leftovers of the beet salad from last week.

Pesto alla Trapanese on Fusilli

Monday 30 August

This is a recipe Barbara saw on Lidia Bastianich's TV show. It sounded interesting, so we went with it.

1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds

(If your almonds have skin, boil some water, add them to the boiling water for a moment, then drain and plunge into cold water. The skins slide right off.)

12 oz (~2 1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup packed fresh basil (we used purple ruffles to make it redder)

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 little peperoncino (optional)

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)

Toast your almonds in a small skillet over medium heat until they’re golden and fragrant, 2-4 mins. Let them cool.

Put almonds in a food processor along with everything else but the oil. Blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides, start the machine again, and drizzle olive oil in slowly to emulsify. When you’ve got the consistency you want, you’re done! Well, taste and see if you think you need more pepper flakes or salt.

Lidia says it should be pink. Served on fusilli, it was light and delicious, if a bit watery from all those tomatoes - maybe next time we'll drain it a bit before we toss it with the pasta.

David's Biscuits, Sausage and Bacon

Sunday 29 August

We've mentioned David's biscuits before. Also David's father's peach preserves. They are perfection, and we need say no more. A hearty midday meal before the drive home.

Venison Fajitas and Coconut Chip Cookies

Saturday 28 August

The Kelleys' freezer is always full of tasty animals that David shoots either with gun or bow (he may use machete and blowpipe, for all we know). The staple is deer, and we noticed a fair number of cube steaks among the wrapped packages of venison. That became the inspiration for fajitas. Also, it was practical, as we could get all the stuff ready and hold it until everyone got home.

The defrosted, sliced deer was dry-marinated in chili powder, coriander, and cumin. We cut up five green and red peppers, an equal amount of onions, squooshed up three avocadoes for guacamole, chopped a ginormous yellow stuffer tomato we had brought from our garden (with cilantro, onion, and lime, of course) for pico de gallo. Other sides included crema, shredded cheese, refried beans, and of course tortillas.

It all went on the fire when the folks got home, and we laid it out as a buffet, so that everyone could adorn their fajitas as they liked. And they seem to have liked, because them fajitas disappeared fast.

The coconut chip cookies were made by JoDee and Laura, and though not Mexican, they made a tasty dessert.

Chicken Pot Pie

Friday 27 August

We drove down to Smyrna Tennessee to see Holt's family, and lucked out when we arrived in time for dinner. JoDee had made one of her famous chicken pot pies. It is classic comfort food. A nice green salad on the side.

Grilled Summer Vegetable Feast

Thursday 26 August

Remember Saturday's baby vegetables? There were a few leftovers, so today we brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt, and set them out on the grill: halved eggplants, fan-sliced zephyr squash (one from the garden!), a few little pattypans, plus onions and peppers. Oh, and it led up to Graeter's fresh peach ice cream for dessert.

Impromptu Choucroute Garnie

Wednesday 25 August

Holt got a couple of appropriate sausages from Kroger's in Findlay Market to go with some Eckerlin's sauerkraut left over from last week. They were Reuben wurst with built-in corned beef and sauerkraut, and Bier metts. But when we looked, there wasn't enough sauerkraut. So we bulked it up by making it into a sort of choucroute garnie.

We chopped up the fatty part of the butt end of a Schad's ham, and fried it in a pan with the sliced sausages. A sliced onion went in to brown, and then a couple of thin-sliced yukon gold potatoes. Finally, the sauerkraut and its juice was put on top, with seasonings of a ground-up juniper berry, a touch of allspice, and cloves. The whole thing got covered and steamed gently until the potatoes were tender. Result: savory and delicious, good just plain, or with mustard and horseradish or horseradish mustard.

Steak with Daniel and Junko's Beet Salad

Tuesday 24 August

The steak got grilled, with a quick gorgonzola butter, but the beets had been made the night before.

Daniel gave us the recipe for the beet salad:

2 red beets (about 2 cups)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

2 sprigs parsley

Peel and cube beets. Boil until soft, drain well. Add all remaining ingredients. Cover and chill.

Beets were recently listed as the first item on the NY Times list of the best foods we are not normally eating. Enjoy!

Napa Sausages, Peppers and Onions

Monday 23 August

The classic.

'Ahi Tuna Steaks and Chard Provençal

Sunday 22 August

We've already mentioned a good recipe that treats bok choy like chard.

Well, now we did it to chard. Very good treatment, especially when you use garden tomatoes and herbs, and put it beside grilled rare tuna steaks.

Baby Everything

Saturday 21 August

From the farmers' market: tiny zephyr squash and pattypans, boiled with butter; roasted eggplants stuffed with Kathy's vegetable gratin; tomatoes; and dessert of tiny poached pears with peach ice cream.

Daisy's Picadillo in Yellow Stuffer Tomatoes

Friday 20 August

We had a half recipe of sofrito left over from Monday, so we went back to Daisy Cooks for suggestions on how to use it. Ended up with picadillo.

There was more than we could fit into the yellow stuffers, so the rest got ladeled onto tortilla chips, like nachos.

Sorta Tortilla Española

Thursday 19 August

Barbara (who eats lunch in front of TV cooking shows when she's at home) saw an "America's Test Kitchen" about this. She takes that show with a bucketful of salt, though. Some of the hints are useful, but they act like they have perfected recipes that, in fact, are dependent upon the exact products that they happen to be using. So if you are using different products - for example, local farm-grown eggplant instead of the hardened old supermarket balloons they use - you will get burnt nubbins when you try to cook their "foolproof ratatouille." So there.

(Also they have a snotty website where they won't show you the recipe unless you sign up and maybe subscribe to their magazine. Give me a break.)

Anyway, we've had this at Fino in London, and even in Spain, for god's sake. So we casually tossed a big onion and some yukon golds, sliced thin, with olive oil, and simmered them covered 15 mins (that was the useful hint). Added them to 5 beaten eggs and returned it to the hot pan, fried until golden on one side, but chickened out of flipping the entire thing onto various plates to fry the other side. Instead, we puffed it under the oven like a frittatta. Still good.

Cold London Broil with Garden Salad

Wednesday 18 August

Just as it says. The salad featured Cherokee purple, Yellow Stuffer, and Kellogg's Breakfast tomatoes fresh from the garden; Allison, who planted them, said that her husband Joe had chosen those varieties strictly for the names. Well good job, Joe; we are old friends of the luscious purple Cherokee; Yellow Stuffer is very prolific and looks just like a yellow bell pepper; and Kellogg's Breakfast is peach-colored and sweet with very little acid.

Ham Carbonara

Tuesday 17 August

What to do if you bought three first-cut ham butts at Krause's last week: use slivered ham instead of bacon for your Carbonara.

But bacon is better, because greasier.

Cold London Broil with Daisy's Papas Criollas

Monday 16 August

We sort of like "Daisy Cooks," a TV show by a Nuyorican whose accent makes Barbara homesick. Holt was more fascinated by her three-ways-cooked Creole potatoes, so we tried them on for size.

First you have to make a sofrito, on which many of Daisy's recipes depend.

We cut the recipe down to make about 1 cup:

1 small onion, cut into large chunks

1 large Italian frying pepper or cubanelle pepper

4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 bunch cilantro (including stems), washed

1 ripe plum tomato

1/4 red bell pepper, cored, seeded.

Chop the onion and cubanelle pepper in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. We used garden tomatoes and the little multicolored peppers that we bought at Findlay market for both cubanelles and red bells.

Once that's ready, you can make the Papas Criollas.

We cut the recipe in half, using:

1 pound tiny white-skinned potatoes--the smaller the better

Kosher salt

Olive oil

1/4 cup sofrito (above)

She asks for half an 8-ounce can Creole-style tomato sauce, but see below.

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and pour in enough cold water to cover them completely. Throw in a handful of salt. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and scoop the potatoes with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Roll them around to dry the skins. That's what she says, but this is crazy. These potatoes were hard as marbles when they came back to a boil, and would plainly never become edible if we took them out this soon, so we kept them going until they were slightly tender.

Pick a skillet or other pan that will hold the potatoes comfortably in a single layer. Pour in enough olive oil to fill about ¼ inch. Heat the oil over medium heat until rippling. Add the potatoes and cook, shaking the pan so they cook evenly, until the potatoes just start to brown in spots. Don't worry about getting the potatoes crispy, because they are going to simmer in sauce.

Add the sofrito, bring to a boil and cook for a minute or two. Then she says to stir in the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Instead of a can of sauce that duplicates all the ingredients in the sofritos, we added some whizzed-up garden tomatoes and some of Mr. McIlhenny's finest Tabasco (in honor of Gay Gomez, who took a bottle of said sacred sauce to Morocco, in case the harissa wasn't spicy enough for her - and yes, she was Gay after graduation, too).

Season lightly with salt. Adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering gently. Cover the pan and cook until the potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and add a little salt if you think it needs it. Sprinkle the cilantro over the potatoes and serve.

Okay, we did all that, or most of it. Was it worth it? They were nice potatoes, it was a nice sauce. Maybe it would send borinqueños into spasms of nostalgia, but for us, it's a lot of work for an -eh- result.

Sole with Sorrel Sauce

Sunday 15 August

It's been so hot, we don't know why the sorrel is still putting out fresh green leaves (maybe because we keep cutting off its bolting fronds). Gotta use them; it's the Law of the Garden. Plus, finally Trader Joe's has begun selling packages with four large sole fillets instead of nine or ten tiny ones.

We made our not-quite-the-Troisgros-brothers' sorrel sauce but now with an increased subtleity: hold back half the chopped sorrel leaves until everything else is done. They should cook only a minute or two, to preserve their fresh flavor and green color.

Oh, and we popped a few leftover-from-last-Saturday baby boiled potatoes into the sauce to warm before serving.

Southwestern London Broil

Saturday 14 August

It has been stinking hot, day after day. We usually hide in the air-conditioned office (actually cold enough that you shiver in your sweater) or the air-conditioned house, but sometimes we sneak out to the movies. Tonight we did, and Kathy came along, to see "I am Love." Verdict: in livid color, but not enough food.

After the movies, Kathy came back for dinner, having already brought a vegetable gratin made according to a classic Craig Claiborne recipe. We broiled a London broil dry-rubbed with New Mexican chile, ground coriander, and cumin, and made a chopped salad of cucumbers, scallions, cilantro, and garden tomatoes, dressed with oil and lime juice. Dessert was Graeter's finest medley of mocha chip, coconut chip, and the fresh peach of summer.

Salmon Fillets with Fennel and Fennel

Friday 13 August

We based tonight's dinner on this recipe, Salmon with Fennel and Pernod, or fennel with fennel taste (courtesy of the department of redundancy department).

Like everybody on Epicurious, we "fixed" the recipe rather than actually trying it. After the fennel seeds were toasted, we took about a quarter of them and ground them in the spice grinder: these went onto the salmon fillets (with salt and pepper) to form a top crust.

We also briefly sautéed the red onion (instead of shallots) because we didn't want a raw flavor. And instead of frying the salmon in the compound fennel butter, we used plain butter and a touch of oil; the extra butter was used to garnish the completed dish. The nice thin fillets didn't need extra water or steaming.

Oh, and we used raki instead of pernod.

Verdict: at least four forks, though it's not the same dish.

Stir-fried Pork with Adult Bok Choy

Thursday 12 August

This was made from the last of the "baby" Mei Qing Choi that Allison planted this year; a few were hanging on and getting old while the rest had bolted, so we gathered them in and used them while someone still could.

While the thin-sliced pork marinated in equal amounts of soy sauce and xaoxing wine (with a touch of sugar and a shake of red pepper flakes), we chopped the bok choy stems separately, and rough-chopped the leaves. A chopped onion, a couple of cloves of minced garlic, and an equal amount of minced ginger helped make up the mise-en-place.

The procedure was as usual: stir fry the onion, then the bok choy stems, then the ginger with a sprinkle of salt. When it's slightly tender, throw in all the leaves and keep stirring until they begin to get dark. Then throw in some broth (we used lamb), cover, and simmer until it's tender and to your taste. Remove to a warm plate.

Clean wok, stir-fry pork and garlic in oil until all pink is gone. Put vedge back into wok, add about a half Tbsp. hoisin and an equal amount of soy sauce. Taste and correct the seasonings; turn off heat, and sprinkle with sesame oil.

Not bad for garden gleanings.

Pizza from the Garden

Wednesday 11 August

Holt made his own dough, of course. We made the pizzas with our own fresh tomatoes, one with goat and one with fontina cheese, and topped with fresh basil both right before and right after they came out of the oven.

Cod Veracruz

Tuesday 10 August

Truly the Piece of Cod which Passeth all Understanding, done much like the tilapia we've had before.

Parsley instead of cilantro, though.

Dinner for Lynne and Tom's new kitchen

Monday 9 August

We were so flattered to be the first guests Lynne and Tom invited to inaugurate their new kitchen in their new apartment. We brought champagne (Gruet de Albuquerque, for reasons of taste as well as patriotism) to celebrate the occasion, though there's no way we were going to waste it by breaking the bottle over the bows - and where are the bows of a kitchen?

While we chatted, Lynne and Tom served some tasty guacamole with hearty dark brown tortilla chips; an unusual color, but they shop at Whole Foods, and this may be a whole food sort of chip.

As a first course, there was a lively-flavored carrot soup.

Fried zucchini on pasta came next, accented with fresh basil from the plant on the balcony. You can tell Lynne and Tom spend lots of time in Rome, where a balcony without herbs and plants is unthinkable.

For dessert, there were fresh cherries served in a bowl of cool water, also very Italian; and dark chocolate; and strong salty cheeses, which went surprisingly well with everything. So thanks, Lynne and Tom, and we'll see you at our house next time!

Pork Steaks with Cherry Sauce

Sunday 8 August

Pork steaks patted with fresh thyme, salt and pepper; served with a sauce made of cherries we'd forgotten in the fridge that still survived.

Baby Bluefish with Baby Red Potatoes

Saturday 7 August

There's a new fish place in Findlay Market - Frank's Fish and Seafood. Last week they advertised baby bluefish, but sold out right before Barbara could get one. So when they had them again this week, Holt queued up for two cute ones. Problem is, he had to ask for them to be cleaned (who puts fish out, especially delicate bluefish, with the guts in them?) and scaled, but have the heads left ON, and after waiting about half an hour for this to be done, they came back to him - guts out, okay, but also with the heads OFF, and plenty of scales still on. Plainly the staff at Frank's need a lot more training before they're ready to sell fish.

We took our mutilated bluefish home, re-de-scaled them, and put them in the cast-iron pan to go into a 450-degree oven. Topped with basil oil at the end.

Suitably served alongside were little redskinned potatoes the size of marbles, just boiled and swirled in butter and fresh chopped parsley.