Another kind of "sole" mates.. The Rock and The Gabber
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Another kind of "sole" mates.. The Rock and The Gabber
Friday, September 25, 2009
At a time when Julia Child is all the rage again, I’ve recently read that she made the lovely French Salade Nicoise famous in America. I guess she probably did, but I have been making it since the 70’s and Julia was not my inspiration particularly, but rather James Beard. Checking through my old Beard cookbooks (I could hardly afford them at the time; you’ll see below that they were Christmas and birthday gifts.), I find his Nicoise on page 332 of JAMES BEARD’S THEORY AND PRACTICE OF GOOD COOKING. The inscription on the inside cover reads:
My great wife and
Dave Christmas, 1978
You can think about that…and draw your own conclusions!!!
The recipe then held the typical ingredients of tuna, boiled eggs, fresh green beans, sliced tomatoes, anchovies and olives, but also noted optionally you might add chopped yellow onion, green pepper rings, pimento strips or canned artichokes. My pages are stuck together with vinaigrette splatters from 1978 when no one else I knew was making vinaigrette. I’m sure there were people somewhere splashing around in hard-to-find olive oil, but I didn’t know them. I had not been to Europe yet and didn’t even know the best places for olive oil production.
In America, well, the United States, anyway, most salad dressing, at that time, came in bottles or from paper packets that were mixed with oil, vinegar and water in your own pre-marked bottles. My own mother made some dressings as I was growing up, but “oil and vinegar” or dressed-up mayonnaise was more likely. Vinegar alone was also one of her trademarks, particularly for sliced cucumbers with onions and green peppers.
My sister would come to visit after I married and I can see her out on my back deck under a huge tree that shaded the table. She adored (still does) tuna and was enamored of Tuna Nicoise, made with canned tuna because, frankly, in the Washington, D.C. area where we were stationed, fresh tuna was unheard of. ( And, to be fair, I’ve had the dish in Nice a couple of years ago now (with said sister, even) and it was served with canned fish. ) Perhaps fresh tuna was unheard of for my budget and in my neighborhood, but really I never saw any that I can remember. The salad became a topic of conversation for her; it popped up again and again as years went by and I moved to 23 other places, “Remember that Nicoise you made in Virginia?” If I called her right now, she might make reference to it were the occasion to arise for a discussion of cooking, tuna, great summer salads, etc.
My husband was fascinated by both the name and the dish. Speaking some French when I had only Spanish, he liked to lord the language over me once in a while, or use it at very opportune moments (it worked). So he liked saying the name “Nicoise” and he certainly liked eating it. It became our quintessential summer meal when tomatoes were at their best and it was just too hot to cook. Did either of us really put together why it was “Nicoise?” I don’t know. I knew I couldn’t find Nicoise olives (still hard to find; they keep most of them for themselves) and probably used black olives. Kalamatas weren’t a mainstay on the shelf then either.
In Nice, on our most recent trip, we arrived one hot noon at a family-style table in a tiny, but exhaustedly busy restaurant at the top of a hill. We sat, at a large table for this place and, of course shared it with another group. It was that or wait an hour. Our tablemates were a fine family from Texas: petite Mom, tall and big Dad with their two strapping (football player?) sons. Pitchers of wine on the table confused them; they wanted iced tea. Well, there was none, of course. Even water, when asked for, arrived barely chilled and in small bottles at that. No ugly Americans here, they merely pressed their lips together tightly and squinted a bit over how little there was to drink, but gamely tried the cool wine. Mom smiled; the trip was her idea of a 25th wedding anniversary gift. When Salade Nicoise (exquisitely prepared and presented, though in small portions on sweet eight-inch plates) appeared, their eyes grew large and soon after the brows furrowed. Was this all there was for lunch? You’ve got to be kidding. (Nothing mentioned out loud.) The men did their best to balance themselves on the tiny, wooden café chairs and ploughed through the Nicoise in, oh, two minutes. More bread, maybe? Butter??? How hungry they were; how hungry they were to remain. Or so they thought.
Once the salad plates were removed (I was full!), the family began to get up to leave. (Maybe there’s ice cream somewhere?) At that moment, the waitress arrived with huge platters of roasted chicken, buttered new potatoes and piles of sautéed carrots cut on the bias in large chunks. Nicoise can be a delicious first course in that part of France and so it was there. Gingerly, but with great anticipation, they sat back down, remembering the too-small chairs, to eat a “real” meal. Now this was more like it; we knew the French knew how to cook. Oh, for goodness sake, that was just the SALAD!!! Soon, big pitchers of RED wine appeared, and as it flowed and more chicken arrived, the wrinkled brows turned to huge, toothy smiles and nodding heads. Yes, this was why we came all this way. Well, Mom, perhaps you were right after all. Except for the sweet tea that should have accompanied this meal.
Of course, for me, to have Salad Nicoise in Nice was all I needed to complete my cooking life!!! I was in heaven, though I, too tucked into the roasted chicken, fragrant with tarragon and basted in wine and butter. My sister thought my Nicoise was better and, while it was the memory that was better truly, she made me feel like a famous chef. She has done that my whole life….and continues to do so.
Here’s my current version, made recently to celebrate the last gasp of summer, eaten outdoors in the dark. (Grilled in the dark by my darling man.) This week held snow and freezing 40 degree temps here, but last weekend was lovely for cooking outdoors. Life has moved on; fresh Ahi Tuna is now available ($21.99 a pound) and I splurged. If you are unmotivated to spend $21.99 a pound for anything, think how many times you’ve paid more than that for a mediocre restaurant meal and then head for the fishmonger or butcher.
Salade Nicoise a la Alyce, 2009
2 pieces Ahi Tuna, 6-8oz ea
4t olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
½ # fresh green beans with sliced onions, cooked al dente
2 sliced fresh tomatoes
2 boiled eggs, sliced thinly
2 medium red potatoes, boiled, cooled and sliced
1 bunch frisee, divided (or any other greens you like)
½ c Nicoise or Nicoise-like olives (can sub Kalamata)
Salt and pepper
Dressing: 1T Dijon mustard, 1 medium minced shallot, 1T Sherry vinegar, 4 T best quality extra-virgin olive oil, ½ t kosher salt, ¼ t freshly-ground pepper. (Whisk together all but oil, then whisk rapidly as you slowly pour oil into the mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings.)
Grilling the tuna: Oil and salt/pepper the tuna. Grill over medium heat about 3 minutes per side until pink at center. Cook more or less according to your liking, but don’t overcook the tuna so it looks like pork tenderloin. If you like the ultimate rare ahi, go for it. This is the place!
To serve the salad, on each plate place separately (and artfully!) tomato, potato, olives, green beans, boiled egg, anchovies and some greens as tuna is grilled. When the tuna is done, add it to the plate. Squeeze lemon over all and salt and pepper entire plate. Drizzle with dressing and pass extra dressing at table if needed.
Accompaniment: Grilled olive oiled garlic French bread slices. (Grate garlic into a pool of olive oil on a large plate. Salt and pepper oil. Brush garlicky oil onto bread and grill briefly until crisp.)
Wine: Sancerre is my favorite. Any French white would suffice.
Dessert: Rocky Ford cantaloupe, what else? Colorado has a few claims to fame food-wise (Lamb comes to mind, though we export most of it.), and this cantaloupe is divine. Add chopped proscuitto if you must. Mint is better.
Sing a new song, recreate a favorite dish; share all of it------------------
Family Last Weekend--Great Grilling Weather!
Britta attempting the Bach with pianodog helping
that's all, folks
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Dogs nosed around in the wet, then raised their heads to lead a pose with their drifting noses back and forth: “And I came out here, why?” New dog ran right back inside and hit my bed. (He’s still learning; I don’t like dogs in my bed. Next to; in front of, yes. In, emphatically: NO.)
It was also the first day of our daughter’s life in real seminary at Princeton after a preliminary, but exquisitely difficult, summer Greek course. We were anxious to hear about things like “New Testament Exegesis,” which sounds perhaps just as complicated as it is. Interpretation from the original language is how she puts it. Having no Greek or Hebrew, we’ll have to rely on what she tells us. I often read the Bible in multiple translations (all English, with occasional Spanish) at once because it helps me to think about understanding things a bit better; I’ll leave the rest to her! Occasionally, over the years of academia away from home, she will ask, “What’s for dinner?” just as if she were still here. I had no time this call for an explanation of a new pasta dish I had made, but I have it here for you!
It’s almost the end of September Staples around here, but I was just using up the rest of the frozen chicken thighs from Hutson’s Tortellini Soup. Of course, if you buy most meats in huge packages and divvy them up yourself, you’ll save a bit of cash. Same thing with these thighs; I buy them in large quantities and package them in freezer bags of four or six. The day I made this pasta, I had no time to shop at all and simply walked into the kitchen grabbing what vegetables were available that I thought might hit it off with the unthawing thighs. I almost always have squash of several types for risotto or quick omelets, so I grabbed some of those and began to think.
Before I knew it, I had a pot of water boiling for pasta, knowing that if I had the time limit of the water coming to a boil and the pasta cooking, we would eat in a half an hour. As we had a dvd of an old movie to watch, time was of the essence. About once every other week or so, we set up dinner on trays and watch a movie. Too relaxing!
Chicken and pasta or fish and pasta is so light, but also quite filling and, naturally, very good for you. Here’s the recipe from the most recent experiment. We adored the Pecorino Romano on board; what a great flavor at a fraction of the price of parmesan these days. I scraped it with the potato peeler for large gratings and good, pronounced and intense flavor. Here’s how:
First the veg, then the meat... I didn't want the meat chewy.
Chicken Squash Pasta in White Wine Sauce
¾ # spaghetti or linguine
Salt and pepper
1 T + 1t olive oil
¼ t red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 med onion, coarsely chopped
1 ea med zucchini and yellow squash, sliced
1/2 # asparagus, cut into 1 " pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 sliced boneless chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
½ c white wine
½ lemon, juiced
2 t butter, optional
1/2 c cherry tomatoes
4T Pecorino Romano cheese
Bring 8-10 qt pot of water to boil, salted, peppered and oiled with 1 tsp. olive oil. Cook pasta as directed on package ‘til al dente. (Pasta continues to cook in colander.)
In large sauté skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and red pepper flakes over medium heat for 1 minute. Add onion and squashes. Cook until softened and add garlic and salted and peppered sliced chicken thighs. When thighs are whitened around edges, add wine, lemon juice and butter. Cook, stirring gently, until chicken is barely done. Add tomatoes and barely stir. Turn off heat.
Add pasta to bowls and top with chicken, vegetables and sauce. Grate romano on top and serve while quite hot. I also topped the pasta with a teense of leftover marinara and fresh basil I had leftover from Eggplant Parmesan hoagies. Si place (do as you like.) Refrigerate leftovers and reheat at half-power in microwave. Reheats well!
Wine: We used a lovely off-dry Riesling to offset the heat of the red pepper.
Dessert: Oatmeal Raisin cookies
Who do you know that loves pasta?
Sing a new song,
Friday, September 18, 2009
Friday Morning. 43 degrees F Leaves on trees still green; robin in cherry tree...
If you read the last blog, you’ll know I spent a day making a new tortellini soup and tasty it was! In the middle of getting things out of the garage (I have a pantry, huge upright freezer and extra double-wide frig out there) for that soup, I noticed it was time to finish clearing out meat from the freezer before winter came and I needed the space for legions of soup, stews and boo coo Tupperware containers of cookies. To say nothing of the things I make ahead for Thanksgiving, which include stacks of cranberry bread. I digress. ( What else is new? )
September Staples includes using up the frozen meat. It appeared there were two huge briskets, short ribs, a standing beef roast and some boxes of Omaha steak hamburgers, which are my emergency rations for any occasion. Sounded like time for a party to make barbequed brisket (coming to your food blog soon), but, in the meantime, the two small packs of on-sale short ribs caught my eye and out they came.
I love short ribs and they have been sort of a trendy entrée for a while, but I also find them 1. full of fat and 2. pricey, pricey. When they’re on the cheap, I’ll grab some, try and cut out some of the fat (useless—just figure on pot roast calories that day) and fix them braised in beer or wine with onions, served over sticky rice with a plate of garlicky green beans on the side. Great for a winter crock pot when you’re busy all day.
It wasn’t winter, but it had cooled off enough to want something more substantial than fish and salad. (We did eat outdoors in the “cool, cool, cool of the evening.”) And who doesn’t love a reason to raid the wine cellar of some cookable AND drinkable red wine? I also cook for therapy and to keep busy sometimes; cooking is good for that and baking is even better. The day I went to cook the ribs, I had a pretty rough morning personally and it threatened to knock me low; I needed to cook to free my mind and heart to consider new endeavors. (Blessings abound; the next day I saw “Julie and Julia” and saw further possibilities in life.) Cooking is so…..
Let’s do something I don’t usually do with these ribs…. I went over all of the ways I’ve made them. My friend Rick loves them any-old way and I think I’d made them for our wine group a time or two just simmered all day long with lots of broth, wine and garlic. Those were boneless ones, even more expensive and, frankly, while yummy, none of them had a lot of meat for the bang. I used them for starters and kept some behind in case someone at the dinner party didn’t like fish, the main course. What else? I got to thinking about my Dad and his cooking style.
My Dad was from near New Orleans, and, hence, cooked a lot of things with onions, celery and green peppers. In those days, I didn’t see yellow or red peppers; where were they? I grew up with produce grown in my own back 40; those are the vegetables I know best. The red peppers we grew were hot enough to make a child very ill indeed; I stayed well clear of them. Lord, Lord, Lord. Just to think of them makes my mouth burn. But the pepper thing came back to me; I had plenty of peppers in the frig drawer as they had been ten for ten dollars. (My father would have called that highway robbery, but I call it a good deal in a world where fast food hamburgers are usually cheaper than fresh peppers.) At this time of year, my Mom would make pans full of stuffed green peppers, freezing them for wonderful cold winter nights. Why not throw these peppers on top of the ribs and see what happened?
Oh, my; you’ve got to make these. If you don’t have short ribs, cut up some pot roast. Tempting, filling, satisfying and great leftover, reheated. Make a lot. I see no reason why you couldn’t freeze this dish for later if you did a double batch. Here’s how:
3-Pepper Short Ribs
Serves 3- 4
2 T olive oil (use regular, not extra-virgin—not so much olive taste)
Kosher Salt and freshly-ground pepper
8 bone-in short ribs
2 large onions, cut into eighths
4 cloves of garlic whole
4c beef broth, low-sodium, gluten-free or regular
2c red wine (any full-bodied)
2 large carrots, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
3 large sweet peppers, sliced (I used one ea: red, yellow, orange)
2t dried thyme
¼ t crushed red pepper
Heat oil in Dutch oven to medium high. Salt and pepper well ribs. Brown them well, about 5 minutes on each side. Stir in onions and garlic; cook five minutes. Pour in broth and wine. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Add carrots, celery, peppers, thyme and red pepper. Stir well. Cover and cook until short ribs are tender, about 2 ½ hours. Spoon off as much fat as possible or strain the cooking liquid through a gravy de-greasing measure cup. (Get one for Thanksgiving now if you don’t have one.)
Accompaniments: I served this with the juices over mashed potatoes along side a medley of green beans, carrots and mushrooms seasoned with a little more thyme. French bread for sopping juices.
Wine: We liked an inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon with this dish; an Argentine Malbec would also be fine. (Save the good cab for steak or standing rib roast.)
Dessert: Probably not.
Current Reading: Barbara Brown Taylor’s THE PREACHING LIFE and Dorothy Sayers’ THE NINE TAILORS. I thought I had read everything Dorothy Sayers had written and was heartened and hopeful to find this old mystery involving church bells (one of my favorite subjects) that was written in 1934. My parents weren’t even married until ’36! Excellent, excellent reads.
Current Listening: I invested in some “old” Mo-town cds a couple of weeks ago and I’m still listening. Also have on albums from The Rose Ensemble, a vocal arts ensemble out of Minneapolis. I’ve heard some lovely music from my students this week; people making music together. Chopin, Bach, Morgan...It’s all good!
Don’t weigh yourself today.
Sing a new song,
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
1 c Basmati rice (or any rice you have)
Monday, September 7, 2009
Labor Day--wonderful three-day weekend with a myriad of possibilities. Walks, talks, cooking, a few put-off chores (deck painting) and some neighbors in for a meal or two. Also a day to babysit a golden retriever with an injured leg and her new pal, a Great Pyrenees named Rocket.
------------------------------------------------------------Gab loves Rocket
Now Rocket is a new addition and is only 10 months old; he weighs about 100 pounds and thinks he can sit on your feet and lap. He also thinks our queen-sized bed belongs to him. Try to get one hundred pounds of anything off your bed. (Where else would he sleep? No where else is big enough.) So far, he's as sweet and calm as the day is long, but he has one big problem. He doesn't like closed doors. If a door is closed (like the one to the garage), he simply stands and whines and whines and whines... You get the idea. I think he misses his old family and may be contemplating and/or planning his escape; he definitely wants to be wherever Dave is and, right now, Dave is golfing. Can you hear this puppy crying? A newborn baby's fussing cannot hold a candle to this galoof.
----------------Why did you say this door was closed? No bed for me?
Despite the new family member, or maybe because of him, we had next-door neighbors Mike and Sara Hillman over for dinner last night. It appeared I had four 2" thick pork chops in the garage frig that needed to be eaten or frozen. Much better fresh, why not share with friends? Tyler Florence has a great brined pork chop recipe that he serves with a sumptuous tapenade and roasted vegetables. We made that; it's easy and pleasing to everyone. Mike toted over a nice Oregon Pinot Noir and the night began. (Puppy lying at my feet, quiet now...Has he given up?)
The night was so pleasant, in fact, that we were able to spend a little time on the deck before it was too chilly. Lovely meal, but three of us couldn't eat all of our chops; I sent Sara's home with her and kept the rest of ours along with the cold roasted vegetables (new potatoes, zucchini, asparagus, onions, yellow peppers, flavored with rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil).
When I woke up this morning (100 pounds of white fluff jumping up--ready or not....) to the smell of Dave brewing coffee--heaven's smell, I think--Dave had out on the stove a small omelette skillet and asked if I needed it for breakfast. I had not yet thought about breakfast, but gave the idea a whirl while I had my coffee. The little skillet wouldn't do, because I just knew the leftovers from last night would make a super frittata that would feed us for breakfast, lunch and dinner if we wanted. Not only that, it would make a good addition to the September Staples blog--all about using things that are already in the house for meals.
------------------------------------Out came the cold roasted vegetables
I grabbed the cold vegetables and pork chops out and gave them all bit of a hearty dice and set them aside. Adding a little butter to the pan, I sauteed 1/2 a small chopped onion, a clove or two of garlic and some fresh mushrooms.
On top of that went the cold veg and pork and a slew of beaten eggs, parsley, some cheese (hoop cheddar--what was in the drawer) and a few extra tiny tomatoes for garnish, taste and color. Cooked a couple of minutes on the stove and popped into the oven for another five minutes or so- et voila, breakfast. Out of the oven, Dave showered on some parmesan.
I have done this same thing with leftover sausage, ham and a variety of vegetables and starches; pasta works well and what else do you do with it? One of my favorites is to use the toppings from take-out pizza. Use what you have; have what you use...whatever. A morning of thanksgiving for the beautiful day, beautiful leftovers and, well, maybe for the crying baby dog, who now sleeps peacefully at my feet. He barely fits under the table as I write. Certainly thanksgiving for a morning with enough time for breakfast. Here's how:
2 cups leftover meat and/or vegetables cut up roughly into 1" pieces or less
1/2 c onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c fresh mushrooms, optional
8 eggs beaten
1/4 c parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 c grated cheese of your choice, divided
1/4 c tiny tomatoes
1/4 c parmesan grated
Preheat oven to 400 F. Set aside cold veg and meat. Heat over medium flame an ovenproof 12-14" skillet with butter; add onion, garlic and mushrooms, sauteing until soft. Add cold veg and meat and warm through. Mix parsley into beaten eggs and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over meat and vegetable mixture and stir in half of the cheese of your choice. Sprinkle with the rest of that cheese and add the tomatoes. Let frittata cook until eggs are about half-way set and then place skillet in the oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese is lightly browned and eggs are set. Remove from oven and shower with parmesan. Cut into quarters and serve hot or cold, today or tomorrow.
-----------------------Glads at our table------------------------------------
Sing a new song; make a new breakfast...........
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Well, this month's BON APPETIT is jam-packed full of great ideas. Pick it up if you don't have a subscription. Somewhere in that issue, there is reference to making meals for a week (or two) out of what's in the pantry and the frig... at least mostly. Giving the grocery and your bank account a rest. Cleaning out the shelves. At this time of year, I am all over that; I'm ready to clear out my garage pantry to make sure last year's candied fruit doesn't go in this year's fruit cake and to pitch last year's pintos in favor of the fresh ones ready soon at Rocky Ford. It's also a good time to fill up a bag or two for the local food pantry, whose shelves are full come Thanksgiving and Christmas, but often suffers from shortages as school starts. You won't use four jars of jelly before the expiration date, but someone else might.
I've been home from San Francisco and the Bay Area (also Napa) for a couple of days, but those have been taken up with a sick puppy, who somehow tore a huge gash in her leg playing ball outdoors. (Gab is recovering nicely, thanks.) Anyway, the grocery store and I have not yet met this week and I'm reduced to delivery or something from the pantry. Favorite delivery place did not answer (help!!!), so it definitely was the pantry. Canned pumpkin and Progresso soup aside, the canned clams and Cento tomatoes immediately caught my eye as I poured over the pics from the trip.
Here are a few favorite, dreaming trip pics:
Zin grapes from Tres Sobores (Rutherford)...
-------------------Over 100 degrees...a tad warm for vinyard walking
New Napa friends...
World famous Moraga chef, Brad Morgan and son Nicolas