Eating Every Day

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pizzoccheri

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Eastside Road, March 4, 2015—
A ONE-COURSE MEAL is always welcome as far as I'm concerned: fewer dishes to wash up, and no need to make the evening vinaigrette. And this was a hearty and resonant dish, "resonant" because it recalled me to the Alps, which I love, and the mysteries of the Valtellina, where this dish originates, as described in the estimable Marcella Hazan's "green book," More Classic Italian Cooking.

It's not a colorful dish — which suits its mountain origin, I think, and its affinity, I would say, for cold weather. I'll let la Hazan describe it:
Pizzoccheri are beautiful brown-gray, broad. short noodles. They are cooked with potatoes and some vegetable, such as Swiss chard or Savoy cabbage, tossed with the soft local cheese and garlic-scented butter, and then run briefly into the oven. In place of Vattellina's good cheese, which is unavailable here, one can use fontina, which comes from another of Italy's Alpine valleys, the Val d'Aosta. It is a perfect substitute.

The startling color of the pasta comes from the buckwheat flour which is its principal constituent. Buckwheat, called grano saraceno in Italy — Saracen wheat — because it arrived from Asia Minor, grows well in hilly, cool country. An excellent gray polenta is made from it. Those familiar with Central European cooking know the hulled kernels of buckwheat, called kasha.
I don't know Lombardy well at all, apart from Bellagio and, of course, Milan; last year's read of I promessi sposi has made me want to investigate the area up between Como and Bergamo. The taste and texture and aroma of tonight's pizzoccheri made me think of a weekend we spent in the Carnatic Alps a couple of years ago, up north of Venice. There's Austria in this food, and Austria brings in the East.

Cook made it with Savoy cabbage; Swiss chard is also a possibility. Also buckwheat noodles, eggs, milk, potatoes, garlic, and of course the cheese — tonight, Fontina and Parmesan. (Unlike Marcella, I insist on capitalizing these cheeses; it's the respectful thing to do.)

As I say, one course. No salad; no dessert. The recipe is on page 200 of More Classic Italian Cooking.
Cheap Nero d'Avola
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants
Also now available, as a bit of an experiment: an e-book version of eating in Rome, downloadable here
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Monday, March 2, 2015

Pork chops, my way

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Eastside Road, —
I'VE WRITTEN ABOUT THEM here before, but it's been a while — more than two years. The recipe came to us originally in one of Elizabeth David's books, I think, but I haven't looked at it in decades, I'm sure.

For two nice fairly thick boneless chops, I put maybe a three tablespoons of fennel seeds in a mortar with some salt and a chopped clove of garlic, and reduce this to a paste with the pestle. Then I add the microplaned zest of maybe half a lemon, and moisten the result with enough olive oil to make it spreadable.

I rub the fat edge of the chops on a black iron skillet, then get it good and hot, then add the chops, to sear one surface good and golden. While it's cooking I spread half the fennel-seed paste onto the top surfaces of the chops. When they're half cooked I turn them and spread the remaining paste on the cooked surface.

I probably turn the heat down after they've seared at first, then turn it back up when I turn the chops over, then down again. Depends on the chops. We like our chops just a teeny bit pink.

When they're cooked, I put them on the warm dinner plates, splash some white wine into the skillet to deglaze it, and then reduce the pan juices, which will have picked up a lot of the fennel-seed mixture; this gets poured over or spread onto the chops. And there you have it. We accompanied them tonight with the year's first asparagus, tiny and tender and sweet and welcome. No salad; an apple and some chocolate for dessert.

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Cheap Nero d'Avola

LUNCH IN TOWN today at a well-thought-of restaurant better, I think, for dinner than for lunch, which offers a restricted menu. I had the "Tunisian Meatball Sandwich": ground lamb meatballs with grilled red onion, bell peppers, yogurt,
with mixed greens and very nice fries on the side. It was a little gloppy, but tasty.
House "Bloody Mary" (sake, kimchee, tomato juice)
The Spinster Sisters, 401 South A Street, Santa Rosa; (707) 528-7100
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Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

A week at a time…

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Eastside Road, March 2, 2015—
FEBRUARY 24, 2015: a Tuesday, we fasted, as usual — a slice of toast with the breakfast caffelatte; a few nuts with the evening tea; a glass of water now and then if we're thirsty. We've been doing this for two or three years now, suspending the routine only when traveling. We find it retunes everything.

It does have one unfortunate result, though: it interrupts the daily eatblog, and sometimes I don't get back in the traces for a few days — as this last week, when springtime activities outside (those damn fruit trees!) push deskwork to a back burner…

WEDNESDAY, February 25, 2015: Lunch at Chez Panisse: aïoli; confit; what — find the menu. That's the first course you see in the blurry photo: the vegetables not cru but very lightly blanched. The confit's at the bottom of this page.
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525

THURSDAY: patés from the new (to us) butcher shop in Petaluma, Thistle Meat. (The name seems strange, and isn't improved by their sidewalk sign, which announces "This'll meet your expectations".) This is an artisinal shop, I guess you'd call it, working with grass-fed and organic animals from regional producers, and the shop is small, clean, fragrant with sweet healthy meat; the cases attractive.

Petaluma is a little too far for us to make this a routine stop. A similar shop seems to have opened in Santa Rosa, which is twelve or fifteen miles closer to us; and yet another is said to be opening in our own nearby town, Healdsburg, later this year. I wonder if all these blessings are due to those following the "paleo" diet: if so, my thanks to them. I remember when the last butcher shop in Berkeley closed, back in the 1970s I think, and we had to make do from then on with plastic-wrapped pre-cuts in the supermarkets. In fact our local supermarket, Big John's, has a decent meat counter.

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Thistle Meats

We don't eat that much meat at home in any case, partly because we eat out so often, partly because it's expensive. We eat only organic, non-hormone, and no-antibiotic meat, as far as we know (and we do try to know), and I attribute our reasonable health to this, among other dietary attentions…
• Thistle Meats, 160 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma; (707) 772-5442

FRIDAY: Taken out to a Salvadorean storefront in our nearby town, where Cook and I had the "plato tipico" you see photographed below. It was okay, nothing more. Nice people, but unmemorable food and very plain room — no reason to go back.
  • Pupuseria Salvadorena , 1403 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa; (707) 544-3141<

    SATURDAY: Toulouse sausage from Thistle, and there's a story here. Cook treated it the usual way, searing it dry in an enamel skillet over a fairly hot fire; but said while cooking it that she didn't like the smell, and worried it wasn't sound. I cut a chunk out of one and tasted it: sound, I thought, but unusually tripey for a Toulouse sausage, normally rather a delicate affair. I ate mine; Cook nibbled at hers. Next time I'm in Petaluma, I'll have to ask about this mystery…

    YESTERDAY: Fusilli pasta, which hold the sauce so well; and Bolognese, which Cook makes so well, being half Italian, and that Piemontese, and I do think the Piemontese know long-cooked meat sauces as well as the Emiliaromagnesi…


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    Confit, Chez PanissePlato tipicoFusilli at home
    Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants
  • Monday, February 23, 2015

    Petaluma

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    Eastside Road, February 23, 2015—
    THE WEEKEND'S MEALS were modest — I'm sure you'll understand: Friday had been unusually festive. Saturday we were content with leftover pasta with peas, always good; Sunday we visited up north, and enjoyed mortadella, and rosette de Lyon (a favorite sausage of mine), and a marvelous potato salad with egg and bacon and lots and lots of Italian parsley.

    Today, though, we spent in the nearby town of Petaluma, where we lunched on a "croque-baton," chopped ham and melted Gruyère on baguette.

    Rosé, Red Car, 2012
    Della Fattoria Downtown (The Café), 141 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma; (707) 763-0161


    Then we stopped off at a new butcher shop we'd heard about, and picked up this pretty slice of rabbit paté for tonight's supper. With it, bread from Della Fattoria — a good bakery — a few cornichons, and a pickled cherry or two. A nice pick-me-up-and-send-me-to-bed.


    Thistle Meats, 160 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952
    (707) 772-5442

    a glass of red
    Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

    Cucumbers and Malvasia

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    Berkeley and San Francisco, February 20, 2015—
    A VERY DELICIOUS DAY today, starting with breakfast at a favorite café in Berkeley, where the cappuccinos, made with Equator coffee, are superb, and the toast and marmalade as good as they are at home, which is saying quite a lot.

    Bartavelle, 1603 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley; 510-524-2473


    Lunch at another very favorite place in San Francisco, where the menu runs to Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, and the women are superb to see. It was a hot day — a hot day in San Francisco, in February! — and I was dreaming of cucumber sandwiches. The closest was a split bagel, fresh from the oven, with cream cheese and sliced cucumbers, with a soft and tasty pierogi served with intense, deep damson plum preserve.

    20th Century Café, 198 Gough St, San Francisco; (415) 621-2380
    Malvasia, Terzolo (Croatia/Istria), 2011: one of the nicest,most interesting, richest, best-finishing white wines I've had in a long time


    Dinner was less rewarding than the other two meals, but good enough to sustain conversation with a friend and carry us through a Sam Shepard play (A Lie of the Mind, not quite resolved): Veal piccata in rather a gloppy sauce, with the usual array of steamed vegetables.

    Martinis
    The Brazen Head, 3168 Buchanan Street, San Francisco; 415-921-7600
    Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    Steak and salad

    Berkeley, February 19, 2015—


    SOME FEW MONTHS ago Chez Panisse began serving an inexpensive late- night steak dinner Monday through Thursday, but somehow we've never managed to take advantage of the opportunity until tonight. What a pleasure! A grass-fed filet, fairly thick but not ludicrously huge, nicely salted, grilled a perfect medium rare, served with tasty French-fried onions and a roquette salad, with a glass of house Zinfandel, for twenty-five bucks. 

    Of course I had a second glass, and then, with my companion's delicious dessert — tapioca crème anglais with mango and tangerine — a glass of Chateau Suduiraut. What a fine way to close out a pleasant day. 

    Thursday, February 19, 2015

    Comal; cake…

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    Eastside Road, February 18, 2015—
    THE PHOTOS ARE OF desserts tonight: but that's not all we've been eating, of course. Sunday night we had another delicious cabbage soup, with cheese and salad, and the neighbors down the hill as guests.
    Cheap Pinot grigio; Cheap Nero d'Avola


    Monday was fast day this week, because yesterday we'd made plans for dinner and an opera with friends in Berkeley. We ate around the corner from the show, in a back "patio" room too noisy for comfortable conversation, but the food was tasty: for me, a share of a "bitter green" salad, then patatas bravas and albondigas, three very nice meatballs that filled me up and saw me through an entire bel canto opera. The flan pictured at the right helped fortify me…
    Tequila; red Rioja
    • Comal, 2020 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; (510) 926-6300

    Tonight we had friends over to supper: Fourme d'Ambert, Beaufort, and Brie to begin with (though in truth I prefer my cheese after dinner); then that delicious shell pasta with peas I've mentioned recently, a green salad dressed with shallots and vinaigrette, and for dessert…

    upsidedown cake.jpg…this superb blood orange upside-down cake. When I was a kid my mother made an upside-down cake from time to time, always with canned pineapple, with cloves here and there, and, if we were lucky, maraschino cherries at certain interstices. To tell the truth I still hanker for that cake, rich with brown sugar and pineapple, but I know my present Cook's cake is infinitely better. Made with butter, for one thing, not margarine. An American classic, skillet-formed upside-down cake, leavened with baking powder, deliciously sweet and, in this case, fruity.
    Grillo, Tamì (Sicilia), 2013 (fragrant, full, sound, delightful); vin "rouge intense", Côte Mas ("Sud de France"), 2013 (a little rough, a bit dull, pleasant)
    Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants