Monday, September 26, 2011

Pasta al Salmone

Thursday 22 September
The classic.

Cold Swordfish and Green Sauce

Wednesday 21 September
Two nice swordfish fillets left over from Monday, kept moist by their jellied sauce.  Ground up some of the jelly, including any garlic slices, with fresh parsley and cilantro from the garden, plus spoonfuls of capers and Dijon mustard, to make a green sauce topping, and put that back on the fish.  Vegetable: warmed-over chickpeas and greens, also from Monday.

Ribeye with Herbed Goat Cheese and Leftover Vedge

Tuesday 20 September
After yesterday's incredible dinner, something simple.  Succulent grilled steak on the bone, topped with the herbed goat cheese from yesterday, and a selection of yesterday's varied and tasty leftover vedge.

Dvorah's family dinner

Monday 19 September
Our dear friend Dvorah and her family - sister Ziona, her husband Miko, brother Aytan, and his wife Lyla - were doing a road trip after a family wedding, and we were delighted to hear that they were coming through Cincinnati.  So it was a kosher vegetarian dinner for seven!

 We started, of course, with appetizers to sit down and chat over, with a nice pour of chardonnay, coke, or lemon balm iced tea.  Barbara made two batches of goat cheese spread, one with fresh garden herbs, the other with oil-cured tomatoes.  There were dolmas, and Holt's own cornichons; then we jazzed up Dean's festive and mediterranean blend olives with some rosemary, thyme, and fresh olive oil, and laid out a platter of smoked salmon, flanked with fresh zephyr squash chips (thanks, Benriner!) and sour cream.  Oh, and the caponata we made a few weeks ago - keeps great in a jar in the fridge.  

Holt made his fabulous focaccia, with fresh rosemary chopped into the dough.  Unfortunately, Dora the Explorer decided to take a little walk across the rising dough; you could see her little catprint in it, but luckily there was a towel on top, and it tasted just fine while raising a few indulgent chuckles.  

Then we sat down at the table to the feast of vegetable contorni we'd prepared: little new potatoes boiled with turmuric; heirloom tomatoes and purple basil on a bed of arugula; roasted red peppers dressed with olive oil, garlic and capers; Lidia's Ligurian green beans (just parboil, cool in water, then french the beans; sauté a couple of cracked garlic cloves in a pan of olive oil, add some anchovy fillets and break up; then toss in green beans and mix around); roasted asparagus and batons of heirloom carrots; the late unlamented chickpeaswhich we'd kept frozen, now cooked till absolutely tender and simmered with onions fried with hefty shots of coriander, cumin, and smoked paprika, then with parboiled collard greens; and Dvorah's own recipe for pickled beets and turnips.  

Once there was space on the table, we added the main dish, Lidia's Bagnara swordfish with plenty of lemon and capers.  Of course, everything was served family-style.

Dessert was Jacques Pepin's classic recipe for fruit tart pastry, filled with fresh South Carolina peaches - and for honored visitors, Graeter's peach and coconut chip ice cream to go on top.
As they say in China, what a fress.

A Midsummer Night's Wrap

Sunday 18 September
This is our second Shakespearean dinner this week, this time enacted in person by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival in the Parkand the park was Burnet Woods, right near our house.  Barbara walked there and saved us a bench, while Holt brought her a few wraps foraged from the department's opening party at Baba Budan's.  One chicken, and one falafel, both with salad, both rather bland.  But it doesn't matter when Bottom is condoling in some measure.

In Honor of Archie Christopherson

Saturday 17 September
Sharon and the family invited us over for Archie's 80th birthday party, a wonderful occasion which was full of friendly conversation, good drink, funny songs by his kids, and a mandolin serenade on an instrument he had built himself.  As usual, the spread was bountiful, including a side of cold smoked salmon, little bagels and rolls with tenderloin, savory-spiced beef satay, horseradish sauce, tiny pierogis, artichoke dip, shrimp with cocktail sauce, Archie and Sharon's home-made dolma, and later, both a chocolate and a strawberry shortcake birthday cake.  Knob Creek bourbon, too.
So it was with heartache that we heard that, after the party was winding down, he went up to bed with a headache, suffered a stroke that very night, and died within days.  We hope that his last thoughts were of his wife and children giving him such a wonderful party, and of all of the people who love him. 

Shrimp and Corn with Basil (and a hint for getting the kernels off fresh corn)

Friday 16 September
The basic recipe was this.  But we stir-fried the red onion, then scallion whites, then red bell pepper, then corn kernels, then little kernellettes; set them aside in a bowl and fried up the shrimps on each side, picking up lovely brown from the sugars in the fond; put those in a bowl and deglazed the pan with a little wine.  Returned it all to the pan, rewarmed, and served.

Holt complained that kernels flew everywhere when he scraped them off the cobs, but we've seen a good hint since we did this: set the corncob on the middle height of a bundt pan; when you scrape it down, the kernels go right into the bottom of the bundt pan. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Henry VIII Sandwiches

Thursday 15 September
We made sandwiches for our trip to the movies to see the play that burned down the Globe theater, put on in the new Globe Theater.
Using Holt's Italian Bran Bread, there were 2 halved sandwiches:
one of dijon mustard, swiss cheese, arugula, genoa salami, and Holt's cornichons;
another of whole grain mustard, swiss cheese, arugula, German prosciutto, and sliced tomato. 
Hearty!  And easier to eat than chicken legs to gnaw on.

Prosciutto Melone and Summer Risotto Cakes

Wednesday 14 September
Trader Joe's has been disappointing lately - not just the blecch mettwurst we had yesterday, but we also had to return some mouldy Swiss cheese.  In exchange we got a package of German prosciutto, more smoky than Italian or Canadian.  It was pretty good with a nice fresh Indiana canteloupe from Findlay market.
Second course was risotto cakes made from last Sunday's risotto, breaded with panko.

Trader Joe's Metts and Supermarket Salads

Tuesday 13 September
We got the sausages as a trial, but they weren't particularly good - just bland bangers.  And since we're under pressure, we got premade mustard potato salad and cole slaw from Bigg's.  Yecch and feh.  Now we remember why we usually do our own foods rather than buying premade.

Spaghetti Norma

Monday 12 September
perfect meal for August, when our basil plants are in, and cute little eggplants from the Northside Farmers' Market.

Sunday Steak

Sunday 11 September
Kroger's choice ribeye and gorgonzola butteralong with defrosted corn and fava relish that Holt put up last summer alongside.

Summer Risotto

Saturday 10 September
This used the last traces of leftover chicken and broth from Wednesday's carcass, plus scallions, chopped-up garden zephyr squash, tarragon, lemon thyme, and parsley.  

We made it according to our new planusing hot broth.  Result: light and harmonious.

Chicken in Champagne sauce (almost)

Friday 9 September
A leftover-using approximation of a favorite of ours.
Sliced onion, turnip and carrot batons; sautéed in chicken fat and butter, and deglazed with chicken broth cooked from the carcass on Wednesday night.  Piled the leftover legs, thighs, and wings on top to steam.  Added lots of thyme and salt, and then parsley.  Not as transcendent as the original with all the pork products, but still a savory mess.

Leftover Pork and Chard from the Yard

Thursday 8 September

Simplicity itself.  Cut Monday's porchetta into slices, and sautéed some rainbow chard from the garden with garlic and red wine vinegar.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Shallots

Wednesday 7 September
Just for a change, we tried Thomas Keller's secrets for roast chicken with crisp skin.  It's rubbed dry as possible, salted inside and outside, and cooked at high temperature.  When we next have time we'll try his other secret, letting the dried bird sit uncovered in the fridge for an hour or two.
Still, we couldn't resist adding some sliced Yukon Gold potatoes and halved shallots to roast in the pan, along with some some (local, expensive) garlic cloves and (garden, cheap) rosemary.
This worked pretty well, though we didn't truss the bird, and justifiably so - the legs were even a mite underdone, instead of raw as they would have been with a trussed bird, at the time when the breasts for tonight's dinner were perfect.  But it was okay, as we put the legs, wings, and extra meat aside, and then broke up the carcass and made broth, all for a later meal.

Asparagus and Worcestershire Spaghettini

Tuesday 6 September
This recipe is in Beard on Pasta, right next to the fettucine we had on Sunday.  It's a great thing if you have asparagus, but no cream or ham for a Saffi.

Pork Loin Porchetta Style

Monday 5 September
Labor Day! and the temperature plummeted down into the 60s.  But we were too overworked to stay home and smoke a duck or a salmon, so we did a marinade of a nice quick-cooking two-pound boneless pork loin.
We marinated it with porchetta-style seasonings:
2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground fennel seed
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. chopped fennel fronds, from the odd sprout that's going mad in the garden; 
all beaten into about a quarter cup of oil, and then rubbed into the pork loin to marinate, anywhere from an hour to overnight.
What was left over of the herbs was sprinkled onto 4 sliced parsnips, 4 sliced carrots, and 6 halved shallots, and tossed with olive oil and salt.  It all went into a 350º oven for ca. 50 mins. until the pork reached an internal temperature of 140º.  Then it came out and rested for 10 minutes, while the vegetables, now all brown and savory, kept warm in the turned-off oven.
A savory and rewarding but easy meal, on a labor day when we actually had to labor.

Tricolor Fettucine

Sunday 4 September
This is a fave of ours, which is fine even in winter, as you can get the basics in the supermarket.  But it's superlative in the summer, when everything is fresh from the market (red bell peppers, and heritage red and yellow tomatoes instead of canned) or the garden (our own zephyr squash). 

Cincinnati Ceviche

Saturday 3 September
We had not been able to try the Peruvian ceviche back at the Nasca Café in Munich, so we decided to make our own in sun-baked Cincinnati, where the temperature climbed to around 100º F. on this Labor Day weekend. 

The materials were mainly gathered from Findlay Market and our own garden and fridge.  From the first, yellow and red tomatoes, bursting with summer flavor (or just bursting), plus red onion and scallion, and a half pound of bay scallops from Luken's, which got put under lime juice to cook themselves for a few hours in the fridge.  The garden gave us the second seeding of fresh cilantro, our favorite opportunistic weed.  Finally, the fridge  provided one of Holt's preserved lemons to be chopped small, and most of a bag of frozen shrimp, which we cooked quickly in a court bouillion of their own shells, parsley, and scallion tops before chopping them up and mixing them in too.  It tasted piquant, cool, fresh, and a bit raw, which is just what you want. 

Chicken Breasts with Zephyrs and Tomatoes

Friday 2 September
Yet another thing to do with zephyr squash, this one to accommodate one zephyr that had overgrown itself and gotten round-bellied and harder-skinned.
We only had skinless and boneless chicken breasts instead of the called for skin-on and bone-in, but we still pressed them down with the big cast iron skillet for good sear and savor.  

Ribeye Steak and Asparagus

Thursday 1 September
The succulent steak was from Kroger's choice meat counter, almost 2 inches thick, which just needed to be salted and grilled, flipping frequently.  Served it with parsley-and-thyme butter, which also went well on the roast asparagus.  And our new kitteh sat on a nearby chair and didn't even try to crawl into the steak platter. 

Yes, we have a new cat, named Dora (because she is such an Explorer - and short for Pandora, who also had a box).  As you can judge from the picture, she is very curious all that goes on in the kitchen, though so far she has been good about not actually getting into the food.

Tuna Steak with Caponata and Zephyrlets

Wednesday 31 August
Sautéed the tiny whole zephyr squashes, just picked from the garden, in oil first, then set them aside to sear the (inch-thick, defrosted) tuna steaks; then set those aside to warm the caponata (made before we left for Europe), all in the same skillet.  Saves on dishwashing.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Tuesday 30 August
What to have when you've just got back from Europe and you have to depend on what's left in the fridge - luckily including eggs.  We did it our usual waywith onions as well as bacon.  Wish we'd remembered that Jamie Oliver does his with batons of zucchini or yellow squash, as the garden was full of zephyrs that we needed to pick and eat.  Oh well, that can be tomorrow.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Biergarten am Cinesischen Turm

Monday 29 August

Munich's equivalent to Central Park is the Englischer Garten, which strollers in search of garden follies should not miss, even if they already spent the day on the long march around the Nymphenburg Palace ("Versailles Light").  And at its center is just what you need after so much walking, one of Munich's best beergardens.  On this sunny day, it was full of people just off work, families, couples, friends playing scrabble, and tired tourists, including us.  But a couple of glasses of Urbock and a plate of roast chicken with roast potatoes was enough to revive us.


Sunday 28 August
On summer evenings, the courtyard of Munich's Glyptothek becomes the setting for plays on ancient themes, in this case, Aristophanes' Frogs in the original German.  Viewers sit at café tables from which they can see the Aeginetan marbles and the Tenea kouros, and the price of the ticket includes a seat cushion and a couple of plaid blankets (the weather turned cool, even cold, yesterday!) as well as a basket of bread, a bottle of water, and a couple of bottles of wine for each table.  It proved to be enough that we didn't want any further dinner.
The performance was excellent, especially considering the low budget (only 5 actors played all the roles).  We were able to follow it pretty well, even catching where Aristophanes had been slightly updated ("You frogs are so rude!  The French are right to eat you!"). 

Bei Raffaele, Munich

Saturday 27 August
After last night's gourmet fress, and then a day spent on our feet in the Alte Pinakothek, we just went out to the Italian place on the corner.  We had a pizza with prosciutto and artichoke, and linguine with vongole veraci; and both were just fine.

Restaurant Halali, Munich

Friday August 26
One of Holt's i-podded guides recommended a place called Halali , which Barbara thought for a moment was Hebrew (Halacha?), but turns out to be a horn call signaling the end of a hunt - so game would be a theme.  The restaurant is on a quiet street near the Staatsbibliothek, and as we wandered there on our second stifling night in Munich, we had no idea that we were on the verge of one of the great meals of our lives.
The restaurant is impeccably linened and dark paneled, its high walls decorated with skulls and horns of deer and elk, with an occasional stuffed bird of prey.  There are bronze lantern holders figured with boar, deer, and hunters.  We were welcomed to sit near one ivied, multi-paned, and thankfully open window by a young blonde woman in casual street clothes, whom the website shows (in a pink dirndl) as Frau Egglhammer.  No one else appeared, but her service was easy, observant, and skillful, as if she lives here and is having a few friends (there was only one other table of diners) over for a simple, relaxed dinner. 
But dinner was not relaxed, and anything but simple - rigorously simplified is more like it.  We bless our fates that we chose the set menu for the evening, because once it started we didn't want it to end, and for a while it seemed like it wouldn't. 
The theme was summer specialties, including game, in modernized but traditionally German dishes.  We started with an amuse-gueule of summer vegetables en gelée with fresh basil, and a soft cheese ball rolled in what seemed to be savory kataifi pastry, with parmesan crisps, while tasting the wine, a 2008 Heiderer-Meyer pinot blanc "barrique," recommended as being especially good with game.  Frau Egglhammer held the bottle in the bar fridge, as any icebucket would have been ineffective on such a hot night; and she was careful to keep us topped up with sparkling water as well.
The Vorspeise, scattered with arugula and red lettuce, consisted of beef tartare and mushroom duxelles garnished with basil, a tidbit of moist smoked eel on a cabbage roll, and tranches of goose liver in bacon dotted with apricot, which liver-hater Holt said was the best-tasting of any he's ever had (the previous was aboard the Seabourn Pride).
The first course was house-made thin noodles in truffled cream sauce, just lavished with slices of woodsy summer truffles ("scorzone"), the only fresh truffle available at this season (a spotter's guide to truffles is at this site ).  We were just able to keep ourselves from standing on our heads to lick the bowls.  But the elegance did not let up, witness the palate cleanser: an intense basil sorbet, like a bright green fruit, with a bitter chocolate stem and mint leaf. 
There were two choices for main course, and as usual we had one of each and switched in the middle.  This was not without its dangers, because as Frau Egglhammer warned us, the plates were hot - and not the usual dishwasher hot, I mean scorching.  This was especially true of the grilled game-fish ("Edelfisch"), which was pink-white like fine trout, served on a bed of spinach, with lobster sauce and garnish of sweet scallops and shrimp.  The alternative was nicely gamy medallions of Austrian venison, served perfectly medium rare with juniper cream sauce, fresh porcini and chanterelles, red cabbage, spätzel, and a sprig of fresh red currants.  Surprisingly enough, the white wine was strong enough to stand up to these flavors, though we were not; we almost wilted in the heat after that, and had to be revived with more water and wine.
And dessert, of course; we were lucky that neither of us went for the cheese platter with truffle honey and grissini, because not since the silver dessert juggernaut of Philadelphia's Le Bec Fin have we seen such an array. We each got a large plate containing five desserts: a warm crepe with apricot filling; cinnamon crème brulée; a puff of coffee cream poked with a chocolate stick; raspberry foam in a round glass (hard to polish with your tongue, though we tried); and a knockout oval of sour cream gelato with fresh apricot.
By the time we finished, it was 11 PM, and we were the only ones in the place.  We asked Frau Egglhammer why, and she told us that on such a hot night, all the locals were outside in Biergartens.  If so, we can only be grateful that we had her, and the chef's, undivided attention, though we don't even know which of the two chefs (Hubert Buckl and Hans Reisinger) was in the kitchen that night.  We went out babbling that either or both was a genius, or geniuses.  

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Nasca Peruvian Café, Munich

Thursday August 25
Driving back to Munich seemed to take much longer than it needed to, but we managed to get the rental car filled with diesel fuel and back on time, to find and get on the correct train to the city, to roll our bags to our hotel, and dump our stuff and ourselves in our room.  Though the temperature was in the high 80s, air conditioning is apparently unheard of in German hotels, at least the ones we can afford; so we staggered back out to do what everyone else was doing, sit in a sidewalk café and try to catch a bit of breeze.
We were fortunate to find the nearby Nasca Caféwhich attracted us not just for its comfy chairs and big open windows along the street, but for the cachet of going to Munich to eat Peruvian food. 
We started with a platter of chicken, beef, and spinach empanadas, and managed to unwind a bit, with the aid of some tall glasses of cold beer (when in Munich, drink beer, especially in summer).  Gradually we became able to note the surroundings, the apartment balconies with open windows, their denizens wiggling their toes in the air, and the strange sight of a fake raven attached to a balcony railing, presumably fulfilling the same function as plastic owls in the USA (Barbara's Mom used to have one named Owl Roker).
As night began to fall and the restaurant filled with chatting couples and groups, we segued to a good, spicy pork adobo with potatoes and rice, and jaleo de pescado (hot, fresh fried fish) with dipping sauce and a side of fried manioc, which was a first for us  - not bad, sort of a cross between plantain and a hush puppy.  So all was, eventually, well.

Le Pirate, Lausanne

Wednesday August 24
This morning Holt gave his talk, and then we spent the rest of the day discussing the past and future of the book.  Stimulating but quite tiring, so it was kind of the conference organizers to take us out yet again, to our third terrace restaurant in three days, Le Pirateright on the quais of the lake, at Ouchy. 
There we were able to have the famous lake perch as our main course, along with all the trimmings of salad before, potatoes and assorted vegetables with, varied wines brought by running waiters throughout, and at the end, coffee and chocolate cake with blackberries and a strange but tasty yellow fruit that had a husk like a tomatillo.  
When we asked what it was, the eventual answer was physalis, which does turn out to be the tomatillo family.  We never knew it included sweet "Cape gooseberries" like these.
Again, a wonderful evening in Lausanne, ending with a romantic stroll (disturbing a few loitering swans) along the lakeside, and of course another ride back on the Metro.

Restaurant de l'Université de Lausanne

Tuesday August 23
We were in Lausanne for a conference "From Ancient Manuscripts to the Digital Era," where Holt had been asked to speak on the ancient part (he was for it).  The organizers had set it up beautifully, everyone was kind about keeping to languages that others knew, and it didn't hurt that the campus, though architecturally furnished with the usual 60s brutalist horrors, featured green spaces mown by the occasional sheep, and looked out over Lake Geneva towards the mountains. 
The view was especially good from the University Restaurant terrace, where they took us to dinner the first night of the conference.  We started with Greek salad, though that was not one of the official languages of the conference, and white and rosé table wines.  
The set meal of pork cutlets, flageolets, and roast potatoes was fresh-made and suited the occasion and setting perfectly.  And then we took the Metro with our French and German speaking new friends, back to our airless hotel room.  

La Suite, Lausanne

Monday 22 August
After the hassle of arrival and car-rental, we spent six hours driving for the first time in three foreign countries, in a car we didn't know how to turn off.  Luckily strangers were willing to help us (put the brake in, who doesn't know that?) at our lunch stop, and our visit to the immortal library at Saint-Gall helped too.  
It was also a good thing that we got the last GPS available, or we would still be driving down the loopy streets of Lausanne.
We asked the lady at our hotel for a dinner recommendation nearby, and she sent us to La Suite.  We found a deserted restaurant, Sinatra songs blasting from the back, and were about to scuttle out when they pointed us to the elevator and a roof terrace, where a reassuring crowd of unidentifiable Europeans seemed to be enjoying themselves in six languages. 
They seated us immediately, luckily under a good solid canopy, because thunder and rain soon began.  More daring parties had to scuttle under shelter, while we enjoyed the cool breeze and a bottle of a local white, Saint Saphorin le Louchy.
Our appetizers kept with the cooling theme: an octopus salad with tomatoes and lemon thyme, and crab and avocado salad with Granny Smith apple.  The chef was creative enough, though he had a habit of decorating all the plates with spots of yellow and orange condiments, and drizzles of balsamic vinegar. 
We kept to the fish for mains as well: monkfish, which was a tad over-roasted, with curry oil and piquillo peppers, and simple planked maigre (sea bream?), which was far better. 
All in all, a pleasant experience, always suppressing the thought of what it would translate to in dollars.

In the Air

Sunday 21 August
When they ask "chicken or pasta?" on an airline, we say chicken, in the hope that it will be a mite less nasty than the pasta, and contain a few grams of protein.  It was, and did.  Luckily, flights to Europe still have free wine.  Then it's heads-down to try and catch some restless rest.

Clean Out the Refrigerator Night

Saturday 20 August
Mainly leftovers, because we are leaving tomorrow for 9 days in Switzerland and Germany.