Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chili

Eastside Road, January 31, 2010 —
CLEARLY ONE OF THE HUNDRED great dishes: chili and beans. Lindsey cooked up a mess of pinto beans to begin with. Then she browned ground beef, adding onions and garlic at the right time, flavoring with oregano and good New Mexico chili powder, and combined things, and cooked cooked slowly slowly. Before, guacamole with chips; after, green salad.
Nero d'Avola

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Grilled tuna

Eastside Road, January 30, 2010—
DOWN THE HILL to the neighbors' house for dinner: Eric grilled a slab of storebought tuna on the Tuscan grill in his fireplace, and Thérèse roasted potatoes, onions, a carrot or two, some fennel, and some bacon in the oven.
tuna.jpg
Green salad, of course; a little bit of salsa verde on the vegetables, and hot fudge sundaes for dessert. Once again — I know this is a predictable litany — a truly delicious dinner: color, texture, scent, flavor, vitamins, minerals, good company.
Cheap Pinot grigio; Nero d'Avola

Friday, January 29, 2010

Chestnuts

Eastside Road, Jan. 29—

GIOVANNA AND PAVEL are here for the weekend! What nicer way to celebrate than penne with chestnuts? Lindsey mashed them into the sofritto, then combined that with the drained pasta — delicious on a winter night. Green salad.
cheap Nero d'Avola

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hot diggety

Eastside Road, January 28, 2010—
I COUNT THIS an excellent day: sardines with raw onion on toast for lunch; hot dogs for dinner. Niman Schell, of course, broiled, served with mustard and a slice of dill pickle and some very thin slices of raw onion on a DB&C* bun. Only one thing would have improved it: a Cubs game. Green salad.
Nero d'Avola
*Downtown Bakery and Creamery, 308 A Center Street, Healdsburg; tel. 707-431-2719

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Soup

Eastside Road, January 27, 2010—
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dear Mozart! We finished the slaw, savored a bowl of red-pepper soup, and revisited the cheese box tonight, with toast and a green salad to follow.
The rest of that Sauvignon blanc, Viñas Chilenas, 2009; and Tempranillo, La Granja 360, 2007

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Encore

Eastside Road, January 26, 2010—
TONIGHT'S DINNER was the same as yesterday's: slaw and Swiss steak. I dealt with the latter yesterday, so why not investigate the concept of slaw tonight? The word's simply Dutch for salad: sla. In English, though, slaw has a more specific connotation, seems to me: it involves shredded leaves and pickling or fermentation. A slaw is essentially Northern, as a green salad seems Mediterranean. As I said yesterday, this one involved cilantro, lime juice, red pepper and salt as well as the red-cabbage base. Crunch, salt, sweet cabbage, sour lime: a multisensate course.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Swiss steak

Eastside Road, January 25, 2010—
WIKIPEDIA WOULD HAVE made my world entirely different when I was a child. Instead of idly wondering why Mom called it "Swiss steak," and wondering what it might have to do with the only thing I really knew about Switzerland — namely, The Swiss Family Robinson — I would simply have done what I did just now and looked it up online.

Who'd have known:
The name does not refer to Switzerland, but instead to the process of "swissing", which refers to fabric or other materials being pounded or run through rollers in order to soften it.
I don't recall Mom ever running our beef through rollers, though I did hear her slam the tenderizing hammer on it from time to time. To me, Swiss steak is beef that's been tenderized somehow, then slow-braised, usually in some kind of tomato sauce.

That's exactly what Lindsey did tonight, and it was as good as ever. Little old potatoes, too, boiled tender, so you can mash them down in the juice with your fork. As a first course, a red-cabbage slaw with grated carrot, chopped onion, a little chopped cilantro, some red pepper flakes, lime juice and salt. Afterward, the usual green salad.
Sauvignon blanc, Viñas Chilenas, 2009; Tempranillo, La Granja 360, 2007

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brunch, and a resolution

Eastside Road, January 24, 2010—
BRUNCH TODAY — not my favorite meal, as I've mentioned before — in Sebastopol, because the chef at The French Garden is an artist. We went with a couple of friends, and had, after our Bloody Marys, Eggs Benedict (L); Eggs Florentine (G); Huevos Rancheros (J); and Short-rib and potato hash, with a poached egg atop. That was mine, of course: I can't resist Mark's slow-cooked beef dishes, and wasn't disappointed here. None of us was disappointed, not even John, who pointed out that his huevos were not muy auténtico, but that they were good. (Leaving the restaurant, we bought some frisée for tomorrow's salad; on Sundays the French Garden's (not really French) garden sells produce in a little market in the parking lot.)

But my chief delight today was a delayed putting-into-action of my secret New Year's Resolution: to eat more cheese this year, and to eat it more knowingly, if not necessarily more knowledgeably. To that end on Friday, being in Pt. Reyes Station, I dropped in at Cowgirl Creamery and asked for advice.
cheese.jpg
The result was a small round wooden box to keep in the refrigerator (and to remember to withdraw an hour or so before dinner!); in it, these three cheeses: a Fourme d'Ambert at the top of the plate, Cowgirl's own Devil's Gulch brie-type at three o'clock, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve Extra-Aged at nine o'clock. With a slice of toast (Pugliese, Downtown Bakery) this made a perfect supper. The Devil's Gulch is soft, creamy, tasting a bit of sweet straw; the Pleasant Ridge recalls a young Amsterdammer though it is more delicate; the Fourme was perfectly au point.
Sauvignon blanc, Viñas Chilenas, 2009 (cheap)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Anchovy pasta

Eastside Road, January 23, 2010—
WE ATE OUT yesterday; we're eating out tomorrow. Today was what a good Catholic might call a fast day: pasta and fish. A lean day: two cappuccinos and a slice of bread for breakfast; a Martini and a handful of cashews and almonds before supper: pasta with anchovies and garlic warmed in olive oil. Green salad, and so to bed.
Sauvignon blanc, Viñas Chilenas, 2009 (cheap)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Stellina

Point Reyes Station, January 22, 2010—
WE HEARD ABOUT a new Italian restaurant out in this West Marin town about a year ago, but hadn't made the trip — we just never seem to make it out to this corner, beautiful though it is. But today we drove out with a couple of friends, through the bucolic dairy country (that's a redundancy, but let it stand) south of Petaluma, skirting the now-filled Lagunitas reservoir, crossing the landmark rainbow-graffiti'd bridge, finally driving into the town made famous thirty years ago by an independent newspaper — a town that's since turned into something of a foodie destination.
pizza.jpg

Lunch was, not to put too fine a point on it, wonderful. We warmed up with a nettle-and-tomato-sauce pizza, stinging and savory. I had a delicious gratin: cardoons, cream, nutmeg: it took me right back to Piemonte. Then a fine plate of garganelli dressed with a fine home-style ragù: ground-up lamb, rabbit liver, and veal, spiced up with red pepper — from Piemonte to Sicily in the wink of an eye.

We even had dessert, splitting a lemon ice cream sandwich and tasting our friends' complex crisp: late pears, sour cherries, caramel sauce, cardomon cream... hmmm: very enterprising, very skillful, very down-home. And then back the slow way, the countryside even more beautiful under low light and Wagnerian rainbows.
Vernaccio, Castelli dei Jesi, 2007; Nebbiolo, Matteocorreggia (Roero), 2007
  • Osteria Stellina, 11285 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station; tel. 415.663.9988
  • Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Idem (the same)

    SEE BELOW.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Lentiche

    Eastside Road, January 20, 2010—
    NOT UNTIL THREE DAYS after Valentine's Day, on the 17th, does Lent begin. We don't wait; we have lentils tonight. I think my fondness for lentils was formed late, not until after Alice opened Chez Panisse, and I frequently had lentil salads for lunch. Later, Victoria opened Pig by the Tail, and prepared lentil salads were on hand there. I don't think I ever had lentils as a small boy, neither at Mom's table nor at her mother's.
    So I always associate the taste of lentils with pork — lardons or pancetta or, as tonight, smoked bacon — and the tang of vinegar or lemon juice. And onions of course. And what are carrots for? Their one overriding function is to lend a little bit of color and a little bit less, but still an important amount, of flavor. To a dish of lentils.
    Green salad.
    Nero d'Avola

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Orange and onion

    Eastside Road, January 19, 2010—
    IT'S ONE OF MY very favorite salads, and one of Lindsey's too. She slices oranges and raw onions and tosses them in a vinaigrette made with tarragon-flavored white vinegar. A little salt, no doubt. That's all. Flavor, scent, texture, color; sharp and sweet; soft and crunchy.
    salad.jpg
    An objective reality Francis Ponge would appreciate.
    Afterward, potato-salt cod-garlic gratin, and green salad of course. Maybe in a bit we'll have dessert — we did yesterday, a little cardomom cake Lindsey made to keep her hand in. I love it. (And her.)
    Cheap Pinot grigio; cheap Nero d'Avola

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Fish tacos

    Eastside Road, January 18, 2010—
    Another extraction from the freezer: a few weeks ago I bought some frozen cod fillets, partly on a whim, partly thinking there were only so many cod left, might as well get them now. And lo, yesterday's newspaper had this recipe for fish tacos. With a little taco sauce and some thinned Lemonaise from Ojai, they were very tasty. All they needed was a tossed green salad.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Sunday, January 17, 2010

    More leftovers

    Eastside Road, Jan. 17—

    STILL MORE STUFF turned up in the freezer today: a very thick soup involving potato, carrot, beef stock I'd guess, and one hell of a lot of pepper, as well as a little mustard. And then a few odds and ends of pasta in red sauce. We finished them what's next, I wonder?
    Green salad, of course, with the requisite slice of bread…
    cheap Nero d'Avola

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Kale and chickpeas

    Eastside Road, January 16, 2010—
    I don't know where Lindsey finds these things. Here's a leaf from a notepad, on it in her hand:
    1 T. olive oil, 1 lg. onion, 3 cl. minced garlic: cook about 30 seconds
    1 to 1-1/2 # kale coarse-chopped — add & cook 1 min.
    1 c. ch. broth 1 t. ground coriander, 1/2 t. ground cumin, 1/2 - 1/4 t. garam masala, 1/4 t. salt — Add, cover, & cook 8-10 min. until kale is tender
    red pepper flakes
    1 15-oz. can chick peas, rinsed — stir in & cook 'til heated through
    4 servings


    I rather think, since the note ends with a careful count of calories, fiber, potassium, fat, and cholesterol, that the recipe came from a recent magazine.

    All that said, there was no kale; the birds have eaten all our kale, and Lindsey substituted spinach. It was tasty. But pride of place went to the sardine-and-raw-onion sandwich that followed. One of my daughters posted to the other's blog, the other day, that no sandwich beats ham, butter, and bread, especially if it's Spanish ham, French butter, and French bread. I nearly concur, though I think a little watercress improves that. But there's a better sandwich, and it's sardines and raw onions. No butter needed; no watercress either.
    But did we have green salad tonight? How can you ask?
    Cheap Zinfandel, "ForestVille," 2006 (much improved by standing open, though corked, for the last nine days)

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Fast (not really)

    Eastside Road, January 15, 2010—
    Breakfast: two cappuccinos, one slice toast, honey.
    Lunch: a pint of pale ale, a small bag of potato chips. (This is quite unusual.)
    Dinner: a serving of pasta with chestnuts (see yesterday: leftover); green salad. It's Friday: a Martini before dinner. With a small handful of cashews and almonds.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Pasta with chestnuts

    Eastside Road, January 14, 2010—
    The recipe was in Edible Portland, the current issue; you can see it here. When I saw Parmesan and butter out on the kitchen island I knew I was in for a treat. It didn't hurt that Lindsey made a first course: delicate young cauliflower from the local Love Farms, roasting it and dressing it with a mustard vinaigrette — a combination of flavors I haven't had before; one that completely mystified me. Delicious. And then this wonderful pasta, with the bits of chestnut, the garlic, the Parmesan, the pancetta. What a pleasure! Green salad.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Ham hash

    Eastside Road, January 13—
    THAT'S WHAT I CALL it, ham hash. Lindsey diced a thick slice of ham and, after sweating some chopped onion in olive oil, added it and some equally diced potato. Chopped kale went on top. It was tasty.
    Nero d'Avola

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Last of the lasagne

    Eastside Road, January 12, 2010—
    lasagne.jpg
    Lindsey made this lasagna* thirty-nine days ago; tonight we had the last of it, alas. It's been kept frozen these five weeks, and it hasn't suffered a bit. All she had to do is warm it up in the toaster oven.
    Lasagne alla Bolognese: pasta, Bolognese (minced beef and flavorings), béchamel. It is an utterly insinuating, delicious, captivating dish, one of the Hundred. Green salad, of course.
    Nero d'Avola

    *Lasagna is the singular form of the noun; in Italy it's always referred to in the plural, "lasagne," but I can't bring myself to write "this lasagne", and "these lasagne" doesn't seem to make sense.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Dinner from the fireplace

    Eastside Road, January 11, 2010—
    Farewell dinner for Eve, who flies home tomorrow. Lindsey and I walked down the hill to the neighbors' house, carrying a bottle of — what else? — cheap Nero d'Avolo. Eric has the Tuscan Grill permanently placed in the big stone fireplace, and the embers were burned down just right. He grilled slices of polenta, Belgian endives, and sausages. Emma spread a little blue cheese on the endive and let it melt in. Green salad, of course.
    Morgon, 2007; cheap Nero d'Avola

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    The French Garden

    Eastside Road, January 10, 2010—
    Dinner with a couple of friends in Sebastopol tonight, at The French Garden, a curious establishment just outside town. I was here for lunch two or three weeks ago, and wrote about it here; but that was lunch: tonight it was time to try Mark's dinner, with Lindsey. The chef, Mark Malicki, has an extroardinary hand with flavors and textures, combining them in surprising ways but always respecting the traditional repertoire. No foam, no kiwi, no verticality. From a number of appetizers and entrées I chose a simple garden salad, perfectly dressed with a fine vinaigrette based on a subtle olive oil; and a braised lamb shank in a deep red-wine reduction and flavored with pomegranate and citrus — but so delicately you'd hardly know they were there. It came on a bed of polenta, with carefully buttered sautéed chard. We shared a serving of gnocchi, too; I found them soft and compelling, with delicious spinach and wild mushrooms accompanying them. There were four desserts, and four of us at table: I had a cheese selection, blue, Manchego, and Camembert; to set them off, a generous chunk of comb honey — from the same local garden that proved the produce. This place has embraced a new professionalism in its kitchen; we'll be back.
    Viogner, Hawley, 2007; Zinfandel, Seghesio, 2007
  • French Garden, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, California; tel. 707-824-2030; website
  • Saturday, January 9, 2010

    Dopo

    Oakland, Jan. 9—

    DINNER TONIGHT here on Piedmont Avenue, freezing at a table for five on the sidewalk at nine o'clock. I had raw steelhead on toasts with salmon eggs — very delicious, that! — and then Spezzatino on polenta, very nicely done. The potatoes and kale I ordered never did arrive; oh well.
    Montepulciano d'Abruzzi, Vallevò, ?2006
  • Dopo, 4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA; tel. (510) 652-3676
  • Friday, January 8, 2010

    Posole

    Eastside Road, January 8, 2010—
    I don't know exactly how they made it, Eve and Emma, but it was a very tasty posole. What the hell: let's put it among the immortal Hundred Plates. At heart it's another version of good old pork and beans, but it's so special a treatment it deserves its own shelf. This was among the best I've tasted, whether here, in Arizona, or in New Mexico; whether lamb or pork.
    posole.jpg

    What it needs is meat, hominy, tomato, and chile powder; these and lots of time. I'm sure a lot more than that went into the cooking, and at table we added more yet: shredded cabbage, thin-sliced radish, chopped onion, pinches of chile powder and oregano, lime juice. A very lovely thing. Green salad after, and, for dessert, ice-cream sundaes; and Lindsey baked fresh pineapple wedges that she'd dusted with cinnamon sugar. ¡Ay caramba!
    Capote Velho, Goanvi (Portugal), nv

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Baked potato

    Eastside Road, January 7, 2010—
    Not many better things than a baked potato, especially a nice fresh local one, even if it has sprouted appendages on either side to make it look like a double ocarina:
    potato.jpg
    Here it is with a couple of slices of cold herb-brined pork, yes, we still have some and it's as delicious as ever. And on one slice, the end of the tomato marmalade Michael made a couple of years ago. It too is as delicious as ever, or was: we finished it tonight.
    I split that potato and doused it with olive oil: it needed nothing more, no salt, no pepper, no chives or (Antoine forbid!) sour cream. Green salad.
    Cheap Zinfandel, "ForestVille," 2006

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Esperpento

    Eastside Road, January 6, 2010—
    WE WERE DOWN IN San Francisco today, and it was lunchtime, and Foreign Cinema turned out not to be open for lunch, and we'd already parked so needed a place within walking distance. I remembered that I have Yelp on my iPhone, consulted it, and showed Lindsey the first 40 ideas it came up within walking distance.
    She recognized Esperpento; she'd read about it somewhere; it was just around the corner. Nice place! Spanish food — tapas, but also combination plates, and lunch and dinner menus. I ordered
    photo.jpg
    rabo de toro, oxtail stew: three nice meaty sections in a delicious broth with carrots, chile pepper, cabbage, and spices. Before it arrived I had a nice small bowl of zucchini soup, and on the side a platter with big helpings of patatas ali-oli and spinach in bechamel sauce. This lunch cost $8.50!
    photo_2.jpg

    Lindsey had a plate of patatas bravas, nicely flavored, and a platter of deliciously sautéed Portobello mushrooms. As she remarked, the potatoes were particularly delicious: fresh, clean, flavorful. We like this place, and will return. (Oh: esperpento is Spanish for "eyesore." The place is attractive, though, and quite comfortable.
    House wine: red, Spanish, cheap
  • Esperpento, 3295 22nd Street, San Francisco; tel. (415) 282-8867
  • Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Idem

    Eastside Road, January 5, 2010—
    EXACTLY THE SAME meal as last night: sliced roast pork, black-eyed peas, green salad. It occurs to me how complacent I am about that salad, even though it's the one unvarying dinner ingredient here. I modified my way of treating it a few months ago — or, rather, I now vary the treatment from time to time. Before dinner, usually while Lindsey washes the greens, I crush a clove of garlic with some salt in the bottom of the salad bowl, then cover it with olive oil. This stands to take on flavor while we eat dinner.
    The main course finished, I whisk vinegar into the oil with a dinner fork, whisking rapidly side-to-side. I add the greens, then drizzle more olive oil on top, and scatter a pinch of salt. That's it: Lindsey tosses the salad, and we enjoy it — I with a slice of bread, which takes up all the extra dressing from the empty salad bowl.
    Salad always comes after dinner, and signals the end of the wine service, the end of the meal. What more could you want?
    Cheap Nero d'Avola

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Monotone

    Eastside Road, January 4, 2010—
    WHAT A MONOTONOUS dinner, I said, quickly regretting it. You don't have to eat it, she said, almost accurately. Oh but I was referring to the colors on the plate, I said; in fact I do want to eat it; I know it's delicious.
    It was a slice of Thursday's roast herb-brined pork, just a bit rosier than brown; a heap of black-eyed peas, a bit beiger than brown, and a generous dollop of Michael's tomato chutney, less red than brown.
    It was in fact a delicious dinner, and led me to contemplate that word "monotonous," which always makes me think of Paul Verlaine. So I Googled "verlaine monotonous" and was led straightaway to this site, whose wrongmindedness about poetry says a lot about our all too general routine wrongmindedness about food.
    Les sanglots longs
    Des violons
    De l'automne
    Blessent mon cœur
    D'une langueur
    Monotone.*
    is how Verlaine's "Autumn Song" goes (it's badly transcribed on that website, just one of its problems). Casual English, which is what we mostly speak in this country, thinks "monotonous" means "boring." I take it to mean "little inflected." Visually that plate was the antithesis of everything the fancy restaurants have been plying us with (not to mention the food magazines). But the flavors, the textures! Green salad afterward…
    Cheap Nero d'Avola
    *How would I translate it? Let's see… the long sobs of autumn violins / touch my heart with languorous murmurings…

    Portuguese soup

    Shoot: I forgot to blog today. Calda verde, Gaye called it: as Lindsey pointed out, rather like bollito misto. Linguiça, beef, potatoes, collards, kale. Tell you the rest tomorrow.
    soup.jpg

    Eastside Road, January 3, 2010 —
    WELL, IT WAS like this: our old friend Gaye, I've known her well over fifty years, she was Lindsey's college roomate, and introduced Lindsey and me to one another — her mother was Portuguese, from the Azores, and Portuguese cuisine is in her blood. As is the concept of family. Holidays mean a lot to her. Also, Sunday midday dinner is part of her heritage.
    I like supper in the middle of the day, but on workdays it's rarely possible, because neither of us thinks getting supper on the table is rightly the morning's work. So when Gaye invited us yesterday we jumped.
    She'd boiled the beef — brisket, I think — then removed it to a platter and cooked the collard greens and kale, about equal amounts, in the bouillon, made the day before with marrow-bones. She flavored the soup with pickling spices, extra cinnamon and bay, and, at the end, some fresh mint.
    On the side she fried up some linguiça with some onions, I imagine. A piece of bread in the bottom of the bowl, then the greens and bouillon on top. Later, the platter of beef and boiled potatoes; still later, green salad; last of all, some delicious caramels Lindsey'd made.
    Salice Salentino, Epicurio (Sicily), nv; Pinot Noir, Sonoma Oaks, 2007

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Blackeyed peas

    Eastside Road, January 2, 2010—
    YES, WE'RE A DAY late. You're supposed to eat blackeyed peas on New Year's Day, for luck the rest of the year. We used to have Hopping John, apparently the really authentic good-luck dish for the day, but I think simple blackeyed peas, without the ham hocks, are close enough. At least I hope so, and I hope the day's tardiness will be excused. We could all really use some good luck this next year, don't you think?
    Lindsey soaked the dried peas, cooked them in water, then added a soffritto of small-chopped onion in olive oil and some juice from Thursday night's roast pork, a cold slice of which lay alongside on the plate. Green salad, of course.
    Mourvedre, Louis Preston, 2007

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Charcuterie

    Eastside Road, January 1, 2010—
    NOT, PERHAPS, THE MOST judicious meal to begin the new year: a plate of charcuterie for lunch with friends. Rosette de Lyons, saucisson, pork rillettes, paté maison; a hunk of brie; cornichons and olives; a few irrelevant red seedless grapes. Later, a slice of last night's roast pork with a leftover roast potato — they have no right to be so delicious — and a green salad.
    Mourvedre, Louis Preston, 2007

    New Year's Eve

    Eastside Road, December 31, 2009—
    EVERY NEW YEAR'S Eve, dinner with Claire and Kendall: even years at their house, odd years at ours. Tonight: blood-orange and onion salad, herb-brined roast pork with roast potatoes, green beans and shallots; dinner rolls; green salad. Dessert: black bottom pie. Mourvedre, Louis Preston, 2007