Nicoise Salad – 17 August 2013

D suggested finishing off that can of Tonno with another Nicoise.

main130817Had more cooked beets in the fridge, and hard boiled eggs. I didn’t realize there were a few cooked beans left, so blanched (about 2 minutes b/c no further cooking in butter) the thin parts of some broccolini, and that turned out to be a great addition. Still had some salad turnips and radishes, some marble potatoes from a previous incarnation of the salad, a bit of cucumber, got some new cherry and other teensy tomatoes from Riverdog Farm today, scrounged enough basil from the garden, and found cleaned scallion bits in the fridge, still, also had a pile of Nicoise olives and two salt-cured anchovies. D made the dressing. I did the rest this time. Great salad. I think this depends strongly on the quality of the dressing, which is lemon, olive oil, Dijon mustard, shallots, salt and pepper. It was perfect this time :)

wine130817We got an Acme Rustic Sweet Baguette fro lunch and dinner today – just had a bit of it with this meal, mostly for sopping up the rest of the excellent dressing!

We had a CalStar Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge, so D suggested we have that. It’s a really good wine, but I like his Chardonnays better – more interesting wines. It went well with the meal, though Saveur’s suggestion of a rosen (this recipe is more or less from Saveur) is probably optimal.

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Tomato tarte – 8 August 2013

In honor of my friends J, who asked for the recipe, and R, who wondered about a “tarte,” I’m writing this one out in detail. It’s summer (i.e. Dirty Girl Produce has tomatoes, finally!) so the tomato recipes come out. This is a big favorite, a recipe by Paul Bertolli from the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook. It consists of tomatoes, leeks, cheddar cheese, and basil, in a butter pastry.

main130808This is my version – I don’t do everything according to the recipe; for example, I make the crust like a regular pastry, instead of putting in half the water with the butter, which I found not to work as well for me.

About 3 hours in advance, mix the crust:

Mix 1 cup flour and a pinch of salt. Cut 2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter into a small dice and add to the flour; cut in till the butter is in fine pieces. Slowly, and one at a time, stir in 5 Tbsp ice water, till the dry floury bits are dampened and the dough can be made into a ball. Make it into a ball. Actually, I flatten mine a bit, getting it partway to its eventual shape. Wrap in waxed paper (plastic wrap should be avoided whenever possible, and waxed paper is terrific for this use) and chill in the fridge for at least 1 1/2 hours.

Thoroughly wash about 1/2 pound of leeks, white and pale green parts only (3 medium will do it). Cut into chunks about 1 cm in maximum size. I wash the white stalks after removing the ends, then check carefully for hiding dirt, chop, immerse in water, swish and smoosh around a lot, and drain in a colander as long as possible, so that the leeks are more or less dry before the next bit. Melt 1 Tbsp unsalted butter in a large fry pan, add 1/3 cup water and the leeks, bring to a boil, turn to simmer, cover, and cook till the leeks are soft. The recipe says 10 minutes, but it has never been this quick for me. Further, it seems important to get the leeks dried out so that they do not dampen the tart when added. When the leeks are done, stir in 1/2 tsp salt (I usually forget this. Don’t.) and let them cool.

130808-ingredientsMaybe 70 or 75 minutes before dinner, roll out the dough to desired size. If you are not ready to make the tarte, put it back in the fridge.  The tarte shown is elongated so it will fit the pans for our small oven, so as to save gas while cooking. The bottom of the pan in the photos measures about 8 1/2″ by 12″.

Preheat the oven to 400 and prepare the rest of the ingredients. Slice 2 large or 4 small (photos: 4 small) tomatoes. Recipe says 1/8″ slices, but these are fatter. Tear basil; no amount specified. Grate 2 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) med-sharp cheddar. I used Sierra 8 year cheddar from The Cheese Board, which is an especially good cheese, though not necessarily optimal for this recipe.

130808-prep1Dust the crust with flour a bit and spread on the leeks. I used just a bit too much/many leeks on this, I think. Leave a border of crust for turning up – maybe 1 1/2 inches. Toss on some of the torn basil.

130808-prep2Sprinkle on the grated cheese (actually, I just grate the cheese directly onto the tarte at this point – this is a shade under 2 1/2 oz), sprinkle on the rest of the basil, and put the tomato slices on prettily. Salt and pepper to taste (I salt and pepper the tomatoes) and fold the crust over the edges of the tomatoes, pleating it nicely.

130808-prep3Bake 50 minutes at 400 till golden (takes less time in my smaller oven). Serve warm.

130808-settingwine130808Really, you could easily serve 4 people with this, if you added a nice salad and some olives and stuff. But we just split it :) In truth, I gave D half of my last slice this time.

D chose an old favorite wine, Valreas, a Cotes du Rhone Villages that we get at Trader Joe’s for about $6, maybe $7. It’s delicious, and a great value. We enjoyed it with this dinner.

 

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Unbirthday Dinner at Chez Panisse! 7 August 2013

My birthday is close enough to Christmas that celebrating it is a burden rather than a pleasure, in an already overloaded season. So we move it to an arbitrary date in the summer. main130807-1This works especially well for the “every ten years” birthday celebrated at one of the world’s greatest restaurants, which uses fresh, local, and notably, seasonal, ingredients. Summer is a great time at Chez P. Other times are great times, too, but summer is the best. There are no choices: they plan, you eat. Always worth it, but two dishes tonight were particularly outstanding.

I’ll do the courses in order instead of starting with the main dish this time. They’re all main dishes in some sense.

main130807-2Or maybe I shouldn’t ;) The ratatoille timbale was actually the least interesting thing on the menu – merely “very good” rather than “breathtaking” as some of the other courses were. Nothing special in the taste or texture, IMO. The stuff around the bottom is an excellent red pepper sauce, but then, red pepper sauces tend to be excellent. The salad was perfection itself – perfectly dressed, with delicate, beautifully flavored ingredients, including a lacy sprig of chervil. Adding depth, over the top were teensy bits of botarga, which D observed is yet a new flavor of salt.

main130807-3But the fish – OMG. “Half Moon Bay petrale sole with lemon, sage, and Chino Ranch carrots.” D commented that for him to want to smell the fish was remarkable and quite a compliment. It was very lightly breaded and fried. There were deep fried (I think- no detectable fat) sage leaves over the top – absolutely perfectly done – and around the edges, carrots of different varieties sliced thin as potato chips and cooked to perfection, along with sections of onions – I think scallions. Cooked in butter and probably also oil. Lemon in there somewhere. And look how beautiful it is!

main130807-4Could it get better? No, that was un-betterable. But the main course, “Summer cassoulet with Salmon Creek duck breast, braised pork belly, fresh shell beans, chanterelles, and tomato confit”, lived up to its predecessor. There were mixed fresh shell beans – we saw what were probably cranberry beans and also cannellini – around and under the meats, buts of Romano beans, and also, tiny chanterelles, all perfectly cooked. Tomato confit… hm. Must be the delicate sauce around the dish, tying everything together. I didn’t stop to parse that one. Oh right – the meats: usually I cut off the fat, but not here where it will be perfectly done. The pork belly was crisped and delicious and the duck slices were delectable. There was a gremolata over top with (I think) parsley and crispy teeny bread crumbs, which added a perfect texture to the dish.

wine130807-1The wines: Chez P had a course of three wines, 3 oz each, that they were serving with the meal for an extra $40/person. IMO you can’t really understand a wine with 3 oz, so I was not interested in this, but we did ask what wines they were serving. The first course they had a Bandol rose, and that really would have been excellent, but we decided to match the second course instead and have a Burgogne Aligote, which we really enjoyed.

wine130807-2For the main course, we inquired about a garnacha, having had one of the great wines of our lives – a garnacha rioja from Martinez Bujanda – on a previous birthday dinner of mine at Chez P. However, the server said probably not – too heavy for the dish – and recommended a wine that absolutely blew us away. Called Babiole, it’s a “typical northern Rhone varietal” made by a mowhawk-wearing refugee from the Czech army named Andrea Calek.

main130807-5Dessert was simple but exquisite: “Frog Hollow Farm blum sherbet with red wine0raspbetty granita and peaches.” The peach slices – different kinds – were thin and perfectly ripe, and the sherbet was lovely. Hidden in the back there you can just see what was called a “cookie” but was a narrow slice of a thin, crumbly and scrumptious buttery entity. R suggested having a Jurancon with this, and he and I did, giving D a taste, too. Interestingly, the server recommended the same.

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Caprese; grilled zucchini with basil; carrot – 6 August 2013

SUMMER! It’s officially summer when Dirty Girl Produce brings their dry-farmed early girls to the farmers’ market :) Today was the first day. I had planned, if the tomatoes were there, to make a tomato tart, but I got home too late to do that. (The crust dough must be refrigerated 1 1/2 hours or more, and then the tart bakes almost an hour.)  That was D’s mild preference, but the other alternative, a caprese, was not exactly anathema.

main130806In anticipation of the arrival of Tomatoes (these get a capital T) I bought two balls of Gustosella mozzarella di bufala at the Cheese Board on Thursday, before they closed for their annual August vacation. I assumed I’d get the basil from the garden plants, but alas, they are pretty much done for the year. I got some, but since I was going to the Bowl for bread anyway, I bought a batch of nice basil and used a bit of it to fill out dinner (and placed the rest, washed, in water, after cutting off more than an inch of stem).

I looked at past blogs to find a good additional thing to have with this, but was not inspired (shell bean pasta can’t be made on the spot, and besides, we just had some) so just served some extra veggies. I used a favorite Saveur recipe as inspiration for some grilled zucchini. We had a 4″ or so hunk of a fat (not monster, just 2″ or so) zucchino, and I cut that into 5 lengthwise slices. I chopped a lot of the basil from the garden, mixed with some olive oil, and spread it generously on one side of the zucchini slices, leaving them on a plate in that condition. 130806-carrotcutBefore cooking, I turned over the zucchini slices, coated them with the rest of the basil/oil, and salted them on one side. I grilled on high them with the salted side down first, though I doubt that made a difference; I covered them with the grill cover, and turned them from time to time. Don’t know how long they cooked, but I think it was longer than the expected 5 minutes.  The zucchini was delicious!

130806-carrotOne carrot, but what a carrot! I got the last bunch that Dirty Girl had for sale, and it was a doozy – perfectly weirdly shaped carrots all ’round. This one was not terrific – a bit old, I think – but good enough, and certainly entertaining.

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D brought up the last of the Rosso Piceno bottles from North Berkeley Wines’ 50% off sale, and we both enjoyed it. In the background is the Acme Sweet Batard I bought at the Bowl this evening. Very good bread. What a surprise…

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Mixed leftovers over pasta; fabulous cheese – 4 August 2013

D was not here for dinner – or lunch, for that matter – so I found myself looking in the fridge, worrying about what was going to go bad. I boiled and then froze the lamb stock we made, decided to use his idea of mixing the cranberry beans with the tomato sauce for dinner, but was stuck on what to do with the black rice – could not freeze well… oh dear. Finally came to me (duh) eat it! So I had that for lunch.

Dinner first, as usual: I mixed the rest of D’s tomato sauce – the one with the rosemary by accident – and the cranberry beans, the last of which he’d carefully retained for this experiment.

main130804I actually called him to ask if he had intended to use the cranberry bean liquid as well as the beans themselves, and he said yes, so I mixed the entire bean container with the entire tomato sauce container, added some water so they could boil without drying out, and heated them for all the time that the spaghetti water heated and the spaghetti cooked.  I made myself about 1 1/2 oz of dried pasta – in fact, precisely 40 pieces of spaghetti (I counted, yes. In fact there were 39, so I added one…) That’s less than a standard serving – about 3/4, in fact – but I was having cheese, and had defrosted the end of a long Italian from Acme, so I knew I didn’t need much pasta. It was a good combination, but not fabulous. I’ll bet D will add just the right thing to make it scrumptious tomorrow :)

130804-cheeseCheese: The Cheese Board is on vacation this week. Aaack! On Thursday I bought some cheeses to keep us during the drought – though if I’d been officially cooking, I would have bought more! I have some Gustosella buffalo mozz in case Dirty Girl Produce has tomatoes on Tuesday. And then I bought this last one on spec, thinking .. well, why not? It was perfectly delicious, though it turns out the wine didn’t love this cheese. Actually, it looked better with the plate after I took off its ribbon, but the ribbon does give information. It’s Besace du Berger Chevre Feuille. We just call it “moldy mountain.”

I had the very end of a leftover wine – probably Valreas, from the 30th? – and a 1/3 bottle of the Vaucluse I opened Thursday. Good wines, though not necessarily ideal for the meal.

Lunch:

lunchmain130804Nothing remarkable. I was trying to figure out how to keep the black rich from going bad… mix into the pasta sauce? no… freeze it? no… oh hey, EAT IT! So I cut up a small bit of onion and cooked that in olive oil, added four thin slices, cut into bits, of Columbus salsice secce, and then the rice. I salted a bit (a bit too much, actually, but not a problem). Had a tiny bread end from the freezer, which I warmed at 350 in the toaster oven to unfreeze it, and then, it being toasty and warm, buttered a bit. One more of the teeny avocados, so I ate what was still good of that. The yellow stuff is a cheese they were tasting at the Bowl when I went: Old Rotterdam (De Rotterdamsche Oude, “Aged over 10 months, product of Holland”). It was perfectly delicious, so I bought some.

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Everything soup with even more things; fava beans with pecorino romano – 30 July 2013

The other night when D made this soup from lamb stock and a bunch of other things, he remarked that addind sausage – in particular, Christopher Lee’s boudin blanc – would make the soup really great. He was right.

main130730Tonight he reheated the leftover soup and added more of the black rice. He also defrosted one boudin blanc, cut it into rounds and cooked them in olive oil rather briefly (the sausage is fully cooked already) and added them to the soup. I spotted some brand new parsley leaves, too, I’m sure. Wow, it was terrific!

130730-settingHe also took the peels off the rest of the favas that he blanched a day or two ago and served these simply, just shaving pecorino romano over the top. Delicious again, though I think I would have liked a bit more of the cheese.

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We almost finished the Acme Italian Batard tonight – just an end left, which will probably turn into croutons – or if we’re inept about it, compost :(

D brought up a bottle of Trader Joe’s Valreas, a Cotes du Rhone Villages priced at $5.99. We have loved it for years, though I think this vintage wants breathing ore than previous ones. A terrific wine deal from TJ’s, though.

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Everything soup and a bit of cheddar – 28 July 2013

D decided to use up the lamb broth I made out of the scraps and bones from the lamb chops last week. He used the tops of the leeks that I had also painstakingly cleaned for future stock use, some farmers’ market carrots that had gotten a bit wubbly, juniper berries, and peppercorns to make a stock. Then he added most everything in the kitchen to make a soup.

main130728Well, actually, it was just:

  • the insides of the leek tops, which I kept, separately, for edible use, some onion, and mushrooms, cooked in butter and oil and added to the soup
  • some Thai basil from the garden
  • some leftover black rice from last night
  • some Piri-piri sauce (hot), salt, pepper, and a peeled and seeded Roma tomato.

wine130728-sideI expressed an interest in having some actual protein for dinner, and he suggested bread and cheese (at which point we remembered to defrost the last chunk of the Acme Long Italian loaf from last night, after having two sandwiches from the bit we defrosted for lunch) and I got out the tiny bit – one bite each – of Sierra 6 1/2 year cheddar (forgot to take a picture of that) that I got at The Cheese Board on my last visit. There was no other “eating cheese” in the cheese bin in the fridge, so then D got the idea of adding an egg to the soup, as he does with avgolemmono. He stirred some of the broth into one egg, then stirred the egg into the soup. All in all, it was a successful soup. D commented that it wanted sausage, and decided to add one of our frozen Christopher Lee boudin blanc sausages to the rest of the soup when we have it again.

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When we were about to leave the Vintage Berkeley wine tasting on Friday evening, R called my attention to a bottle of Slovenian white wine (I’m half Slovenian) which proclaimed it was the village wine in its part of Slovenia. Also, it was a liter and only $15 for that – so I added it to the case purchase we were making (so it was something like 15% off that). The wine turns out to be slightly on the sweet side – went well enough with the soup, but we really think it would be good for Thai food – talk about ‘fusion cuisine’! – so we may order out from Anchalee tomorrow just for the heck of it. The wine is Jarenincan by Crnko (2012).  

lunchwine130728-pearcider

Lunch:

We had pressed sandwiches on the Acme long Italian, with the top sliced off and the loaf split horizontally. Kentucky Legend ham, Ementhaler cheese D got at the Bowl, and the really great “champagne” (it has no champagne and nothing to do with champagne) mustard I got from Honey Baked Hams in December. The only reason I bring up lunch is that we had a Pear Cider that R found at Grocery Outlet. It was a great match for the salty sandwich, though I can imagine a lot of beer food it would not go with well at all. Good stuff!

130728-dessert

This was actually the dessert fro dinner, but we had even smaller pieces after lunch – the delicious apple tarte tatin that D made yesterday.

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