Today is the last delivery of the season for our CSA.
As usually happens, there were leftover veggies, which, though we leave them out all night, technically become ours after 7 PM if not picked up.
For some reason, this week there were 4 additional boxes of veggies. That's a lot of veggies.
I'm going to bet (or hope) that our basement is cool enough to store all the apples, squash, potatoes, parsnips, and beets that I lugged down there this morning, rendering it a root cellar.
But nothing preserves food like cooking and freezing it, so I had at it this morning.
Knowing I was using the oven (to make duck confit, for cassoulet), I took the opportunity to prepare some beets as well.
I cleaned them and wrapped them in foil, threw in some oil, S and P, and a couple of cloves of garlic and placed two packages on a baking sheet.
I also roasted some potatoes.
I used the potatoes to make gnocchi.
I passed the peeled potatoes through a food mill, and mixed in just enough flour to make an easy-handling dough. I rolled the dough into snakes, and cut the snakes into 1" long gnocchi.
I froze the gnocchi on a baking sheet, then placed the frozen gnocchi into a freezer bag. I may make a gnocchi appetizer for Thanksgiving... we'll see. I know Susan's mother Elvira would greatly appreciate it. If I do, I'll either make a ragu or perhaps a sage cream sauce. Or perhaps I could make a sauce out of all the Kale that's now in my freezer, with bechamel maybe? Hmm... decisions.
I had pounds of Jurassic-looking kale. After cutting out the ribs and soaking it I cooked it in two big batches in our largest stockpot. It steamed mostly, with about a cup of water and some salt in the bottom of the pot. After it wilted I cooked it down a bit and now have 3 gallon bags in the freezer, joining corn, green beans, shredded beets (for rosti), sauteed greens....
The kale ribs joined the potato and beet skins in our composter. Next year they'll nourish the soil in our little backyard, perhaps helping us grow plump tomatoes and fragrant Thai basil, cilantro, and mint for my Goi An-- a Vietnamese cabbage salad that we've become addicted to. (Thankfully I have plenty of cabbage for that now!)
For dressing, combine 1/4 cup of Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce with 1/4 cup of lime juice, a chopped shallot or two, a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, and some grated ginger. Add some ground pepper and a teaspoon of sesame oil and mix. Add some chili flakes if you're feeling adventurous or out of control.
For salad, chop up a small head of cabbage. Add a grated carrot and some chopped cilantro, thai basil (or regular basil) and mint. Finish with some chopped roasted unsalted peanuts.
You can add shredded chicken meat if you like.
It's tasty. Addictive. And good for you.
I left this restaurant two years ago to take a position at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. There, I assisted both the Marketing and Development departments in raising funds for, and promoting, the renovation of old Dinosaur Hall into arguably the world's finest dinosaur exhibit, Dinosaurs in Their Time. This was a $36 million capital campaign project.
I raised funds via approaching corporations and arguing for their commitment to our region's cultural health via "sponsaurship" of individual dinosaurs within the exhibit.
Then, two months before the exhibit opened, I acted as project manager for the public portion of the campaign, called Adopt-A-Bone. This program allowed people to log on to our dinosaur Web site, select a favorite dinosaur, and adopt individual dinosaur bones, ranging from $25 to $10,000, on behalf of themselves or others. All designated "adoptees" received an artful Certificate of Adoption and a permanent listing of their names within the exhibit.
My position ended with the opening of the exhibit. I enjoyed a couple of months off, which enabled me to test retirement early. (I'm going to need projects when I retire.) The restaurant's GM graciously agreed to welcome me back a week ago, and I am happy to be back. I retrained for two nights and began work officially last Sunday.
Serving is a tiring job and not for everyone. It can be lucrative, and the hours are more appealing to some than others. Some, I feel, get trapped in the position and this can lead to bitterness. I have always enjoyed it, but have also been grateful for my time off from it.
I have found that I have easily slipped back into being a waiter. I really don't think I've lost a step. I'm relatively organized-- serving at a busy restaurant requires much juggling, multi-tasking, and prioritizing-- and I certainly enjoy discussing food, drink and other topics with guests.
Of course, it requires some adjustment on the home front. I feel guilty that I'm less able to prepare tasty dinners for us. On Sunday I had to leave a wonderful brunch to go to work. But it just requires a little more planning, is all.
It is servile work, but I have to admit, I'm quite good at it. I genuinely enjoy helping people select a good meal, and perhaps entertaining them a bit in the bargain.
See you at the restaurant. Ask me for a wine recommendation. Get the scallops, followed by the lamb.
Yesterday I decided to explore this combination.
I purchased one "Spicy Sicilian" sausage from Parma and 18 mussels from Pittsburgh Fish Co, both in the Strip District. I bought a sheet of fresh pasta, about 1' x 3', from Groceria Italiana in Bloomfield.
(I pointedly ignored Wholey's Fish Market; I purchased mussels there a month ago and three-fourths of them were dead.)
I definitely wanted a tomato presence. Thanks to our CSA, we have plenty of ripe, sweet, plump, rosy tomatoes. (Our own garden tomatoes, but for one, have yet to ripen, and probably won't.) A cream sauce would have worked, but I wanted the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes playing off the richness of the sausage.
I cut the pasta into 7" square "blankets". Each plate would have two with sauce separating and covering them, essentially making deconstructed ravioli (or an unbaked lasagne).
I also wanted some cheese in the dish. I bought some fresh ricotta and used a half-cup measuring cup to cut rounds out of the pasta to make ravioli "pillows." (I'd never done this before. While they were fine, next time I'll buy "homemade" ravioli from Groceria Italia.)
It was a very delicious dish, one I will definitely recreate.
Mussels and Sausage in Bed
1/4 cup chopped shallot
few leaves of arugula
4 large tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded*, juices saved
1 spicy sausage (about 3 ounces), casing removed, meat finely chopped
1/2 cup of white wine
fresh pasta, cut into 5" sheets, and homemade or store-bought cheese ravioli
1. make the sauce
saute half the shallots and garlic in olive oil for one minute, careful not to burn. Add chopped meat and saute until no longer pink, about two minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, S and P, and fresh herbs and arugula and saute gently until the tomatoes give up their water.
2. cook the mussels
melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a stock pot. Add remaining shallots and garlic and saute for one minute, careful not to burn. Add mussels, then pour on accumulated tomato juice and white wine. Cover and bring to low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for two minutes, until mussels open. Using skimmer, remove cooked mussels to a bowl, and then bring juices back to a boil and reduce by half. Add this to the tomato sauce. Remove mussels from shell. Add any accumulated mussel juice to tomato sauce.
3. Assemble the dish
Boil an inch of salted water in two wide, shallow pans. Slide ravioli into one and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Slide two pasta "blankets" into the other and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Place one each on warm plate. (Slide remaining two blankets and simmer for 2-3 minutes while you begin assembling the dish.)
Place a few mussels on each blanket, then add a scoop of tomato sauce. Position the two "pillows" at the head of the blanket. When the second batch of blankets are cooked, cover the first blanket and sauce with the second blanket. Place a few more mussels on this blanket, then cover with more tomato sauce. Sprinkle with fresh basil. Depending on the spiciness of the sausage and the saltiness of the sauce, add black pepper or sprinkle with Parmesan cheese at your discretion.
This was a beautiful, delicious dish, something I'm genuinely proud of. The sauce was sweet from the shallots, but the tomatoes added a brisk, acidic twang. The pork was spicy, the mussels were briny, and the dish came together remarkably well.
Margaritas on the front porch
Arugula with vinaigrette
Slice of prosciutto from Parma
Sliced tomato, sea salt, olive oil
Music: Perfectly Frank: Tony Bennet sings Frank Sinatra
*After peeling tomatoes (by plunging into boiling water briefly), chop in half across the equator. Squeeze seeds from each half through a strainer set over a bowl, allowing juices to flow through. When finished with all 4 tomatoes, gently stir the seeds, encouraging the last of the juices to fall into the bowl. You should have 1/2 to 1 cup.
peanut or almond butter
And probably a few more.
On the other hand, I'm enjoying eating more real foods lately too. Off same head:
Here's a good sandwich that combines prepared food with fresh food:
Wheat bread/goat cheese/tapenade/proscuitto/tomato/mayonaisse
Spread bread with a little mayo and black olive tapenade, add some crumbled goat cheese and a sliced tomato, salt and pepper, and a thin slice of prosciutto. (The sandwich eats easier if you slice the meat up into little bits first.)
Slice in half with a sharp knife. It'll drip a bit, so keep a paper towel handy.
Open for lunch only, the PFM offers a varied selection of Nigiri and rolls with very fresh ingredients. Each course consists of two orders of Nigiri (for a total of 4 pieces) and 3 selections of rolls. When you finish your selection you can order again. I didn't quite manage two courses, but everything I ate was made and presented very well.
The cost for the special is $19-- about $9 more than I pay for the usual sushi plate of 4 pieces of Nigiri and a roll. The freshness of the fish makes this quite the bargain.
The decor is fairly plain, the seating basic, the music is dull rock and there's no liquor license, so no beer with your fish (unless you bring your own, I suppose). Paper napkins and plastic cups for the soy sauce. But you can peruse a great selection of cookbooks and books about fish while you eat.
For my first course I ordered salmon and tuna Nigiri and both were excellent. For my rolls I had spicy tuna (not particularly spicy), eel with cucumber and a roll that featured fried (tempura) shrimp and avocado, which I thought particularly good.
Course two was basic: more salmon and an order of eel, followed by just two rolls, salmon and tuna.
PFM is definitely not Umi-- in fact it's not even Chaya. But I think that even ordering one course-- 4 pieces of sushi and 18 pieces of roll-- is quite the bargain-- particularly when the fish is so fresh and of such high quality. I wouldn't hesitate to go back or recommend it to hungry, sushi-loving friends.
We have many beautiful tomatoes now, and a large crop of basil. I've also been making fresh cheese-- a batch I made with raw milk was delicious-- so putting 4 and 4 together, I decided to try my luck.
The menu offers an intriguing variety of items and is very reasonable. In fact it's downright inexpensive.
We four split some appetizers: biscuits with corned beef, biscuits with delicious ham, and tempura bacon-- battered, deep fried bacon.
Susan had an updated croque madame for her mains-- it was topped with a mornay sauce and a fried egg and came with a large portion of shoestring fried potatoes.
I had their version of eggs benedict: a poached egg on grilled asparagus, ham, and a crab cake, with hollondaise sauce.
As we were with friends, one of whom was a manager at Six Penn, the chef sent out an extra dish, a plate of steak tacos. The tortillas were deep-fried and delicious.
I also had a damn fine bloody mary, made with smoked tomatoes.
Essentially, one simmers a half gallon of milk, then, once it bubbles a little, adds a quart of buttermilk and a big pinch of salt. The milk solids quickly separate from the liquid whey to form curds. After a minute of stirring, the whole thing is poured through a cheesecloth-line sieve. You gather the corners of the cloth and start twisting the curds into something resembling a softball. You squeeze as much whey out of the ball as possible, then secure it with string and suspend it over a bowl for any remaining whey to find its "way" out. An hour later you have cheese.
(There's also lots of leftover whey. I'll use this for breakfast smoothies and to moisten my two dogs' dried food over the next few days.)
If the co-op sells raw milk I'd like to try it with this next.
The blog title comes from the Sermon on the Mount, as portrayed in the funniest movie ever.
I'm a big fan of Black Box wine. What you lose in romance you certainly gain back in taste, practicality, and certainly value. Twenty-three dollars per 3-litre box translates to roughly $6 per bottle. Not exactly European prices, but getting closer.
For whites I enjoy Black Box pinot grigio and chardonnay. For reds, I find their cabernet to be really very good. I do not like the shiraz, and I have not tried the merlot.
The article points out the environmental advantages of boxed wine. It costs (per carbon emmissions) half to ship the boxes. Four "bottles" in a box weigh half the equivolent in bottles. There's also less to discard when finished.
It was difficult to make the leap, but at the end of the day I gambled $23 and won.
I also made a Swish Chard Tarte: short crust, layered with tomato sauce, sautéed onions, grated swiss cheese, and sautéed chard, finished with more cheese and baked. It ate almost like a pizza, but resembled a quiche, and was very good.
Finally I also recently made a Vietnamese chicken salad, Goi An. Traditionally the base is chopped cabbage; I had none, so substituted blanched, crispy green beans from my CSA. The rest was shredded chicken (one leg and thigh, leftover from the previous week’s roast), julienned carrots, lots of cilantro and mint from our garden, and a dressing made from fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, ginger, garlic and shallot. It’s finished with finely chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts—and it was pretty yummy. We got cabbage in this week's CSA delivery, so after I grill our final local free-range chicken, I'll make this again the "proper" way.
We hosted friends for dinner on Friday. Great Nate is in the process of beating cancer into submission. As he’d been receiving treatment in New York for six months, it had been some time since we’d seen him. While he was not permitted a glass of his beloved bourbon (but that time will come), I was happy to serve him a largely local organic dinner.
Our backyard is splashed with color from Black-Eyed Susans, lilies, Columbine, and the odd rose and daisy. We sat there for our antipasti of roasted beets, sautéed zucchini, goat cheese with olive oil, and prosciutto (both from trusty Trader Joe’s).
We moved inside for gazpacho, which was very cold, crunchy and refreshing. I made it with tomatoes from the local farmers market (not organic, but big and flavorful) and cucumbers and onion from our weekly CSA delivery. I used just the “meat” portion of the fruit; to the juice that was a byproduct of my butchering I added some sugar, salt, lemon and gelatin to this and made tomato jelly. I poured it into little cups, and when it was set I placed the wobbly gel in the base of each chilled soup bowl, and ladled the gazpacho around it. All but Laura's then got a sprinkle of cilantro from our garden. Laura won't eat it because it smells like soap.
Dinner was roasted organic chicken (delivered via our CSA) and CSA green beans, which I parboiled, then sautéed in EVO with some lemon rind and juice. By then we were fairly full and had small portions. It was a big bird, but the four of us managed only one breast side. Of course I gnawed the wings and “oysters” when I was cleaning up, my favorite parts. Lots of leftover meat for sandwiches and soups.
Saturday, Keri and David hosted us and friends Jeff and Rebecca in their beautiful, historic North Side home. The house is turreted, and the living room has a curved wall and windows. Lots of wainscoting reminds you of the details that went into building back in the day.
Keri made a salad of sliced watermelon on which she shaved cheese and added chopped olives, a refreshing and delicious combination. Dinner was pasta with lemon and fresh herbs, and a big-ass bowl of barbecued shrimp (some of which made their way into leftover gazpacho for lunch the next day). Again, first rate— as was the syllabub served dramatically in black cocktail glasses for dessert, with crunchy amaretti cookie crumbs providing contrast and support.
It doesn’t end. Rod and Donna, two gourmands if I ever met any, hosted us and a dozen or so others for a late afternoon dinner on Sunday, created by another friend who just happens to be a truly great professional chef, Derek Stevens of Eleven. We were greeted with Wellfleet oysters and Negronis. The main courses were ambitious. He’d smoked pork butt and ribs in his garden a few days previously and turned them into unctuous pulled pork and barbecued ribs. The pork went into corn tortillas, the ribs were gnawed to the bone. They were the best ribs I’ve ever eaten.
There were large prawns, served scampi style, too, and steamed clams with ground pork, which was Portuguese in origin, I think. The kicker were little hamburger "sliders," each topped off with a little sautéed foie gras.
It was an honor to assist Derek a little, grilling the burger buns and heating the tortillas and so on.
But it was way, way better to eat his food, in the garden, during the tail end of a perfectly blue summer day.
Don’t get old. You forget things—like bringing your digital camera.
David coming to grips with the puffy bread
Keri's happy food face
First, we don't buy mangos (mangoes?) as Susan isn't fond of them, and I certainly don't crave them. When visiting my dad and step-mother in Ivory Coast 10 years ago, sliced mango was offered after every meal. They are everywhere in the Ivory Coast. Susan just didn't take to them. I was more partial to the other offering, paypaya. It was less perfumey and milder.
On Friday morning, around 8:30, I heard a wailing outside our house. I looked outside and thought I could see a neighbor, an elderly Indian woman, confused and crying in the street. She was walking to the front of the house, so I retrieved my eyeglasses and opened the blinds and asked Susan to confirm that this was our neighbor. Our next door neighbor, hearing the noise, had already stepped outside to investigate. By the time I threw on some clothes, Kristin had already called the police to report what turned out to be a mugging.
Our elderly neighbor, Bibi, walking back from a shop, had been pushed down to the street and her purse taken from her. She had bruised knees and shoulders and was obviously in shock.
The police soon arrived. We got Bibi some water. Bibi's English is not so good, and the police officer, frankly, could have been more patient; I'm glad we and Kristin were there.
Bibi's two sons live on the other side of the country, and so with no spare key, I had to break into Bibi's house and open her door to let her in.
We three sat with her for a while, and she offered us each a mango by way of thanks. She seemed to be out of her shock, and had realized that while this awful event had occured, she was going to be fine.
While I'll gladly have foregone the mango for this not to have happened, it sure taught me that a good mango can be great. Remembering my time in Africa, I squeezed a little lime juice on it and that tempered the sweetness and brought the flavor around.
Mangoes are hard to eat, as they have a large, oblong pit. After I peeled it and ran my knife around it like lines of longitude and latitiude and did my best to cut the resulting chunks off the pit and onto the plate. It looked like hell but tasted delicious.
This morning I whizzed my other mango with some yogurt, OJ and squeeze of lime. What we'd call a smoothie the Indians would call a lhassee. It too was delicious.
Second course: Seared Dayboat scallop, sweet white corn, lobster meat, tomato broth, atop truffled mashed potatoes
Third course: Duck breast, seared rare, with crisply skin and strawberry reduction (yum):
Fourth course: Blackened swordfish, locally foraged wild mushrooms, risotto:
Fifth course: Where's the lamb? In our bellies. I "forgot" to photograph the lamb chops, which were very tender. I once read that it is socially acceptable to gnaw bones in public, which we did. The crispy bits along the bone are so delicious.
Susan had wonderful sorbet for dessert. Douglas has a magical sorbet machine that whips in air, giving it a very smooth texture, like ice cream. Strawberry, mango-champagne, and melon. I had a chocolate-toffee tort with chocolate ice cream.
Six courses. One for each happy year of marriage!
In todays NY Times Dining Section, a video shows Mr. Bittman skwering chunks of lamb with rosemary sprigs-- something I trumpeted last fall in our local Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after a trip to Tuscany.
We signed up for a weekly delivery of organic produce, which does make getting an adequate supply much easier; we're guaranteed lettuces and leafy greens, and this time of year lots of zuchini. Recently we've had broccoli, beets, collards, green onions, herbs...
I enjoy beans and greens with a glug of olive oil and spritz of lemon, particularly with a piece of homemade focaccia.
I'd run out of canned beans though but had a can of sturdy chick peas on hand, so I thought of doing a tagine instead.
I usually make these with lamb, usually a nice fatty shoulder chop, cut into little pieces, or cut up leg, or shank, which braises so beautifully; it'll usually have some prunes and/or dates as well. No doubt I'll return to this when the weather cools.
A tagine is a conical pot that steams the dish as it roasts, keeping it moist. I have one but tend to cook my tagines (the dish, not the pot) on the stove top.
1. Sautee some base vegetables until colored. I used a roughly chopped onion, some finely diced stem from some collard greens and beet greens (which add a wonderful sweet element) and a chopped green onion for about 20 minutes. I then added some diced garlic and shredded ginger and cooked off the rawness for about 2 minutes.
2. Grate a small zuchini and add to the sauteed vegetables and saute for a few minutes.
3. Add a can of drained chickpeas.
4. Add your exotic Moroccan spices: I used a good tablespoon of cumin as the base, then added two kinds of paprika, ground cardomom (you could use a few pods if you have them, remove before eating. I ground seeds in a mortar and pestle), tumeric, S & P, then a little cinnamon, ground clove, cayenne and grated nutmeg.
5. Add enough water to moisten, and cook slowly for an hour, adding more water as necessary to keep it wet. The spices will thicken the water somewhat.
This could make a comfortable home for spinach or other greens too.
I'd serve this with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon or lime.
We're keen on quinoa, a whole grain, which makes a tasty base for a saucy dish like this. It couldn't be easier to cook: like rice, two parts water to one part grain. Cooks in about 10 minutes.
We drove over the July 4 weekend to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, home of my step-father’s Italian American family. The drive north from Pittsburgh through glorious sunshine was spectacular, first through rolling farmland, then into the mountains, with splendid views across rich green valleys. We shunned the Turnpike and drove on the slower, less crowded Route 80 most of the way, stopping for a picnic lunch en route.
Ralph was one of eleven children (one of whom remarkabkly also had eleven children), so the large church hall was filled with nieces and nephews. A widower now (he was married to my grandmother’s sister), he still works, but “not on Fridays anymore.” I guess he’s slowing down a little.
Ralph is an enormously friendly man. He’s always driving somewhere, selling something or other, and I’m sure he has no shortage of great friends all over the North East.
Michael insisted we visit Victory Pig Pizza for a quick slice before the party.
Open forever, when they announced their closing a decade or two ago, the community rallied and insisted they remain open. Mike and Janel, self-confessed pizza connoisseurs, had always wanted to try it. His dad and uncle have fond memories of dinner there back in the 1960’s! They’re open only 3 days a week and we got lucky.
Scranton pizza consists of thick, fococcia-like dough, with a thin, sweet, oniony tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. Knowing we’d be eating a real dinner shortly thereafter, we had just one slice each, which has probably never happened in the entire history of the establishment. Susan and I washed ours down with bottles of Stegmaier beer, a light, refreshing local brew. Perhaps one day I’ll return for a slice with toppings, or perhaps their other offering, BBQ.
Ralph’s dinner was good. It was catered by Villa Real—one of the few local Italian restaurants to pass muster with this choosy crowd.
Basic, well-prepared, Italian-American food is a treat.
Of course there were various pork products—capricola and salami as an anti-pasti.
Dinner was pasta with tomato and meatballs, with a healthy showering of cheese; peppers and sausage; roast chicken; over-steamed vegetables (so soft)… yum.
Susan and I were in Italy last year and ate incredibly well. We’ve also been fortunate to visit Babbo a couple of times in New York, which is outstanding. Locally, we have a chef at Eleven who makes fantastic sausage and cured meats. But it was wonderful to revisit good, basic family-style Italian food again. Made me wonder why I don’t eat it more often.
A pleasant surprise: I was guest of the day at the Courtyard Whatever Hotel. I got a chocolate for this, and my name in lights. OK, not lights: cheap plastic lettering.
Me and cousin SandraSusan, cousin Denise and moi.
No, cousin Joe isn't about to have Michael whacked. They're getting passionate over a comic book, I think. Sandra's husband Keith's band, self-confessed "Pocono ponies," provided the entertainment. Excellent, they really got the crowd dancing. Hey, is that a '79 Ibanez? Pretty sweet. Fetch a fortune on E-Bay....
Which is why I almost never order them in a bar.
Isn't that odd? Isn't that where drinks live? In bars?
In theory, yes. Cocktail-makin's live in bars. Alcohol. Carbonated beverages. Fruit juices.
The problem is that cocktails need to be created quickly to satisfy demand. Few bartenders take the time mix one well. Another problem is with the ingredients.
Consider the simple gin and tonic. It has 4 ingredients: gin, tonic, ice and lime wedge. Cocktails don’t come any simpler.
Maybe the bar has a nice selection of gin.
But look at the tonic. Ninety-nine per-cent of the time the tonic will come out of a “gun.” It will consist of tonic concentrate mixed with carbonated water. The gun will also dispense cola, soda, ginger ale, lemon soda, and reconstructed fruit juices—not to mention to bane of a good margarita, “sours mix,” a syrupy lemon/lime artificial abomination. The gun is the primary reason I stick to good beer or wine in bars.
Garnishes are also problematic. Maraschino cherries? Ugh. Go to an Italian market and get real cherries preserved in alcohol. Your Old Fashioned will thank you.
Lemon twists were cut en masse before the dinner rush, drying and curling sadly in a rocks glass for the server to garnish their own drinks (because most bartenders garnish only their own customers’ drinks, not those destined for servers). All the other fruit was cut ahead of time. Fresh juices (if they have them) may have been produced a day or more in advance.
Luckily there's a cure.
A number of years ago I read in the NY Times magazine a reminiscence about a father’s gin and tonic technique which essentially changed my life. After tasting one made this way it ruined all other g/t’s for me.
Friends soon became converted, and started referring to it as a “Daryl Cross G and T” to differentiate it from the more standard recipe. However, this was cumbersome, so a new name was sought. Someone came up with “Muddled Limey”—just about perfect, given the technique and the fact that I was born in England.
The Muddled Limey
Pour a good slug of gin into a glass.
Add fresh juice from ½ a lime (I have hand-held, clamp-like juicer for this purpose).
Add squeezed lime rind to glass of gin and juice.
Muddle rind with gin and juice for one minute. This releases the oil from the rind, which has a distinct character. You cannot skip this step.
Allow this mixture to sit for at least two minutes, allowing the flavors to commingle and soften. You cannot skip this step.
Add dash of bitters (optional).
Add ice to glass
Slowly pour in tonic from a freshly opened small bottle of tonic, such as Schweppes. Discard leftover tonic to remove temptation of using flat tonic for your next round of drinks.
Add fresh squeeze of lime (optional).
Few bartenders would take the time to make a drink like this.
Just about any cocktail could be improved by this technique. Rum and coke with lime. Vodka and soda with lemon. Margaritas.
Or as I call them all, “Happiness in a glass.”
When this happened once before, we removed the kick plate from the bottom of the unit and stuck the vacuum cleaner house up there to remove the startling amount of pet hair that had accumulated on the front of the condenser. Problem fixed.
However, this strategy did not solve the problem two nights ago. The unit refused to cool below 50.
Yesterday, we pulled it further out from the wall and tilted it back and did our best to vacuum the rest of the hard-to-reach condenser.
They don’t make it easy.
Earlier I’d placed a call to Sears to arrange for a service. The cost, upfront, was $250 plus tax—which would cover all parts and labor.
It felt good to cancel it for a full refund today.
Susan and I aren’t the handiest of people. I just don’t know a lot about how stuff works. When things break down, I get anxious. I either have to: a) live without it; b) fix-it; or c) pay someone to fix it. All three choices are awful. Thankfully, my hatred of paying just outweighs my anxiety about my lack of skills. This led me to find a decent resource for home repairs: http://home.howstuffworks.com/how-to-repair-a-refrigerator.htm.
It confirmed that by vacuuming the condenser we were on the right track—but just didn’t go in deep enough.
It’s good to have the ‘fridge back.
We took the opportunity to throw some things out.
I threw out two quart-sized Dannon Yogurt containers of duck fat (our default storage containers, we generate a lot of empty ones). I know, duck fat lasts forever: but I don’t do much cassoulet or fried potatoes or confit in the warmer months. Frozen pot stickers. Some cooked chicken from Sunday’s roast, which was probably still fine, but why risk it. A bag of frozen pearl onions—very handy for stews. Half a bag of frozen peas—very handy for risotto. Some miso glaze—see an earlier blog.
My frozen blueberries, for my morning smoothie, were transferred to the ‘fridge.
Susan pointed out that I should no longer use sandwich bags for storing things in the freezer.
Two weeks ago I’d made pesto from our arugula leaves and some walnuts and froze it into ice cubes, then transferred the pesto cubes to sandwich bags. It’s an old trick. It’s easy to grab one and throw in into the soup. I also used to put leftover dribbles of wine into sandwich bags and secure them with twist ties—this is handy when you need just a little wine for soups or stocks, but don’t wish to open a bottle. Handy until one spills, I mean.
Anyway, in addition to having our working ‘fridge back, we now have a clean, nearly empty one, too. Until later today, when our delivery of organic vegetables shows up.
Susan made me a tasty sandwich for my lunch today. It had goats cheese, chopped up red pepper, some olive tapenade, some homegrown sprouts from seeds we'd mail-ordered, and some lettuce. Probably some olive oil and black pepper too.
whirl a banana with a little buttermilk, orange juice, non-fat plain yogurt and some blueberries.
I don’t cook a lot when it’s hot. For breakfast I’ve moved from oatmeal to smoothies (banana, yogurt, splashes of O.J. and buttermilk, handful of frozen blueberries). Lunch is the usual sandwich or leftovers; dinner is now a salad, bit of cheese, an orange—very easy now that we get a weekly delivery of produce from a local farm. Once a week I’ll throw a chicken on the grill. Eat out on the weekend. Twice last week I was the lucky recipient of free food. A friend who manages a local East End restaurant bought me dinner last week when I’d stopped in for a glass of wine—a very pleasant surprise. On Saturday, following a play in Pittsburgh's "Cultural District" (please) we visited the fine Six Penn for a drink. I struck up a conversation with the chef about some of his items, and he sent us out a plate of charcuterie and a crab sandwich.
(My brother Michael, a comic fan, referenced the X-Men when he told me that obtaining these gifts is obviously my “mutant power:” some guys have long wolf claws; some have destructive laser vision. Some take an earnest interest in chefs and are rewarded with free food.)
It wasn’t miserably humid on Sunday so I decided to cook a little. As I had some frozen sole fillets in the freezer—a reasonable $5/# at Trader Joe’s—I decided to make quenelles, or fish dumplings.
Quenelles are the sort of thing people no longer cook at home in France anymore. Like cassoulet, or foie gras, or soupe au poisson, or choucroute garni, you can buy decent pre-made quenelles in supermarkets. They’re also a readily available starter in bistros. Certainly, before food processors, they were time-consuming—if I ever see the words “mortar” or “pestle” anywhere in a recipe I flee—but they come together in seconds in a processor. I checked a couple of recipes (Julia Child and the recent large Gourmet tome) and saw the basic recipes were similar and easy: whiz together a pound of fish, an egg, salt, pepper, a little grated nutmeg and enough cream (about ½ a cup) to bind it all together. (Bread crumbs or choux paste—the basis for éclairs—can be added to thicken, but I passed on this extra step.) Pike is the fish of choice in France, but any light white fish will do.
I prepared them as we once ate them in Paris with friends Anne and Bill ten years ago, with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of cheese, run under the broiler. (Unlike the Italians, the French do not cringe at the thought of combining fish and cheese.)
Quenelle refers to an oval shape, by the way—formed by shaping the ingredient between two soup spoons. Hence the full name for this dish:
Quenelle du Poisson
In bowl of food processor, mix one pound of chopped fish fillets with one egg, ½ teaspoon of salt, grinding of pepper, and a dash of nutmeg in one-second spurts until just combined; with motor running add up to half a cup of cream in thin line until combined. The mixture should be a little fluffy and should hold together in a light lump. Chill the mousse mixture until ready to use.
In a wide pan, bring 2” of water to a light simmer. Add 2 teaspoons of salt.
Using a spoon, scoop up about 1/3 cup of fish paste. Smooth it with a second spoon and slide this second spoon under the fish mixture, then repeat the smoothing and sliding with the original spoon. Confusing? You’re trying to shape a somewhat tight oval torpedo of mousse.
As you form each quenelle, drop it gently into the barely simmering water. They’ll cook through in less than five minutes.
Earlier, I had made tomato sauce. I reheated this, then I nestled half a dozen (of the dozen I’d made) quenelles into the (oven-proof!) pan of sauce and topped each with a sprinkling of grated Jarlsberger (wishing I had some Gruyere here), then ran that under the broiler for a couple of minutes. The cheese melted and browned and formed a delicious crispy crust.
I served these on roasted eggplant slices, with sautéed kale on the side. I chopped a couple of olives and some chives from the garden and sprinkled this on the fish, and dribbled a little olive oil over everything, and served with a couple of lemon wedges.
Great dish—lighter than it sounds. Though perhaps when it cools off I’ll make them with the mushroom cream sauce suggested by Gourmet.
(Leftover quenelle can be stored in the fridge for a day or two, or frozen. Thaw and reheat in simmering water for a couple of minutes.)
They lived in an old mill in the country, surrounded by farms. They kept an apartment in Caen, and a small efficiency in Paris. Her father, Francois, would stay there when lecturing on the classics in Paris. I stayed there once or twice. By craning your neck out of a small kitchen window you could just catch the Eiffel Tower.
With the exception of Marianne, who is fluent in English, there was a bit of a language barrier with the rest of her family, unfortunately. But they always welcomed my brother and me to their house and treated us well.
I don’t really remember much about the food. I would have still been a fickle eater through my late teens, and wouldn’t have found much of it to my liking, probably. There would have been cheese—the soft, potent Camembert is produced locally. And wine, which I had no taste for until my early twenties.
My dad and Marianne live in France now, in the region of Languedoc. They avail themselves of local foods and always put out a delightful table, which Susan and I happily consume on semi-regular visits to the little village of Adissan.
Adissan wines are quite good. Like the better known wines of the nearby Rhone valley, the reds are primarily blends of grapes that flourish in hot, sunny, flinty stone: Syrah, Grenache and the like. However Adissan is also well known in France for its distinctive Clairette, a sweet white wine which, like Sauternes, pairs well with Roquefort and foie gras.
Locals repair to the local wine cooperative and purchase wine by the 5-litre jug. It is dispensed into these by a gas pump-like appendage. It is not romantic. But then wine is such a part of everyday life that this is not considered odd. My dad then takes this jug home and decants the wine into bottles and corks them to keep the wine fresh. It is meant to be consumed quickly. It’s decent drinking, nothing fancy, and helps the food down. It costs about a dollar a bottle when purchased in bulk.
Traditionally, Languedoc wines were inferior, inexpensive wines sold in bulk as plonk, the sort of wine included in a $10 prix fix dinner in cafes all over the country. Then they were undercut by the Algerians, who offered even cheaper wines. As their markets dropped out, the locals began making better wines and charging more for them. To me, most Languedoc wines are indistinguishable from those of the better known Rhone Valley now. A really good bottle will set you back $10-$15 there. And they are delicious, ripe, fruity, bold wines.
When we last visited in May of 2007 we walked through the village on a Friday evening. The locals had gathered to play bocce (it’s called petanque in France). They’d built a fire from old grape vine wood to grill sausages over and it seemed much of the village was there to play or observe the excitement. According to locals, old vines are fantastic for grilling. There are few things better than some good sausage grilled over hardwood and slapped into a piece of baguette. Merguez, the spicy north African lamb sausage, is particularly good.
The memory is 40 years old now, and I can no longer taste the disturbing elements of the dish that I objected to. I suppose they were mild in flavor. But it didn’t take a lot then. I would have turned my nose up at so many things, based on appearance alone, never mind smell. If I suspected too much flavor in a dish, I wouldn’t go near it.
I was finicky. Picky. Probably obnoxiously so, and most likely a burden to my parents. They must have been thankful for bread, one of the few things I would eat.
(What were we doing in Venice? The family was driving around Europe in an old Zephyr on holiday, staying in B & Bs. Europe was affordable enough back then for even families like ours. All-inclusive chartered holidays to places like Spain’s Costa del Sol were still a little while off. I’m eternally grateful that my parents had an interest in travel. Most did not.)
I wrote in my spaghetti al burro blog about my particular young eating habits recently. Moving to America with my mother, step-father and two brothers in late December 1973 exposed me to a whole New World of food to dislike. It would still be some years before I shed my choosy ways.
My first American food memory occurred not long after we arrived one cold, post-Christmas evening.
No, that’s not right.
My step-father Gene was in the American Air Force, stationed in Upper Heyford Air Force Base, near Oxford. A year before moving to the US, we moved near this base, following their marriage, which took place in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
We visited the base frequently to shop at the Base Exchange. There was much new candy to explore (a foreign word to me; we called them sweets). I was not finicky when it came to sweets. Although I quite liked American candy, I realized even then that they were inferior to our English sweets. American chocolate was waxy and tame, and Milk duds were very, very odd—though I still managed to choke down my share.
My last English Christmas was 1973. We spent it with my father and step-mother in South Norwood, far south in the greater London metropolitan region. I was 10, David had just turned twelve. I remember it as being particularly gift-filled that year. Good lord, how to get them all to America two days hence? I am sad that I have not had a British Christmas since. I’m not even sure how they were different. But they felt more Christmassy than the American kind to me. While I was teaching with a sizeable British expat population in Saudi Arabia in the mid-90’s it came close; we went to a pantomime produced by a local British school, and later went to a party where we sang carols like the very English “Jerusalem.” I suspect that the Christmassy feelings there were heightened by the fact that we were living in a strict fundamentalist Muslim nation.
Perhaps to soften the blow of moving to a new country, we had two Christmases in 1973.
We were met by Gene’s father Enso and brother Mario at JFK and driven about two hours to their house in West Wyoming, near Scranton and Wilkes-Barre in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The tree was still up, surrounded by unopened presents (yes!), and the house was filled with new uncles, aunts, and cousins—even great grandparents, as Gene’s parents’ mothers were still alive. They spoke Italian and little English.
The house was also filled with an unpleasant smell. Kind of sour.
Lydia, Gene’s mother, was preparing the family specialty, something for which they were held in some esteem locally, their parents having run a small restaurant in the distant past.
Tripe was boiling away on the stove.
Thankfully, during the two weeks we spent there, prior to our long drive in our new station wagon to Gene’s next Air Force posting in Alamogordo, New Mexico, his brother Mario introduced us to McDonalds.
What else did I turn my nose up at in cold, snowy Pennsylvania on the cusp of 1974?
Capicola and prosciutto*, which hung rawly in Enso’s basement, waiting to be carved thinly. Olives (which I only recently learned to like). Pumpkin pie. Pizza (its tomato sauce would have been deemed too acidic). I’m sure I was an object of some bemusement by my new Italian family.
Lydia passed a few years ago, and I never did eat her tripe, though I came to love everything else she was kind enough to feed me. Chicken cacciatore. Porcetta. Ravioli, yes, from scratch. Gnocchi. A fantastic meat sauce.
About two years ago I was in New York with friends. Rod, our primary fun-monger, had secured us reservations at Babbo. Tripe was offered as an appetizer. As a nod towards Lydia’s wonderful memory, I ordered it. Like Lydia’s, it came with a tomato sauce.
It was a large portion and all took a bite. No one loved it. But that smell was there, and I was glad to finally get a belly full of cow belly, and a reminder of how grateful I am to be able to embrace food and travel, and to think again about the odd places where life sends you. From London, to New Mexico, to Pittsburgh, Saudi Arabia, Oman… eating all the way, with new family members to enjoy. Life's a trip.
* The first time I saw the word “capricola” written I wasn’t sure what it meant. It was only later that I learned it was how “gabagool” was really spelled. I figured that “prosciutto” had to be “prashoot.”
I like to think of recipes as guideposts rather than instructions. I have a good enough grasp of basic cooking techniques that I’ll look at a recipe, close the book, adapt it (to whatever I want to eat, or to what I have available in the house), turn on the stove and go.
But I don’t really know a lot about Japanese cooking, and I have only made a miso glaze once (carefully following a recipe). It was easy (or so I thought)—mix some miso with some soy sauce, sugar… was there some water in there? Yeah, I think so…give it a stir....
I also attempted to broil, rather than sear, the scallops, and they both failed to brown sufficiently and cooked all the way through, rather than the “medium” I was hoping for. The dish tasted weak, and it seemed a shame to not get the best out of some decent scallops.
I was also disappointed with a pate, a simple pork one with pistachios and prunes.
I have made a few pates over the years, and felt confident to proceed without reviewing my recipes. I knew to use lots of salt—as chilling the cooked pate deadens the flavors, a healthy salting compensates.
Fortunately, some spicy Grey Poupon Dijon mustard helps mask the salty flavor of my over-seasoned pate—but I still wake up parched.
Next time I won’t forget a step. Prior to baking the pate, pinch some off and fry it up in a pan, and taste for seasoning. When it tastes correct, add a little more salt and bake away.
Back then, food was about texture. It had to be soft, rather than hard. I didn't care for assertive, salty, acidic flavors—though oddly I loved the pickled onions you could get from the fish and chip shop, and of course I doused my chips in Sarson's malt vinegar. (English chips are usually of the soggy variety, unfortunately). I enjoyed bread and butter. I liked my mother’s coddle—an Irish (only Dublin, some insist) stew of bangers (sausages), rashers (bacon), potato and onion, simmered in water. (That is the entire dish, and it is still sensational.) I liked the goopy, saccharine sweet and sour chicken from the local Chinese place. I liked hamburgers when I could get them; often, they came from Wimpy, England’s answer to McDonald’s (named for a character from the Popeye cartoons). I loved them, in all their thin, greasy, fried onion-topped and sweet, non-Heinz ketchup glory . I liked my mother’s boiled onions—peeled onions, boiled for half an hour or so, tossed in melted butter. I liked fish fingers and beans on toast, but not cheese on toast. Something about that sharp, acidic kick that Cheddar gives the back of your throat frightened me. Pork pies were right out.
Occasionally we’d find ourselves in an Italian café near Cambridge Circus, near enough the heart of London, not far from Leicester Square, Piccadilly, Soho, and Oxford Street.
Back then, these cafes were the only place to get decent coffee in Britain, a nation of tea drinkers. Not that I cared then, because I didn’t drink it. But they all had beautiful espresso machines, and I learned to love cappuccino in Italian cafes a couple of decades on.
We didn’t have money. My dad worked the markets, and my mom (I suppose mum, for this reminiscence, would be more appropriate) cleaned houses. Italian cafes would have been an inexpensive meal out for us.
My older brother David, with is enormous, catholic appetite would tuck into his plate of flavorful spaghetti Bolognese. Not so me. Too much flavor. Too strong. For me there was only spaghetti al burro: spaghetti, butter and downy parmesan cheese.
The butter was sweetly spectacular, artfully carved, pulled into rolls from the top of a log of butter so that it sat as gentle scrolls atop the pasta. The cheese was light and sweet too, not forceful like our Cheddar.
When we moved to the States in 1974, I was almost eleven. My tastes started to change, and though still picky I began to eat dishes I’d earlier have shunned. This was helped along by my stepfather’s mother, Lydia, an accomplished Italian-American cook. My mother became a better cook (partly with some tutelage from Lydia). Food being more abundant here than in the UK, I took to pot roasts, meaty, ragu/bolognese-type dishes, chili con carne…
Summer vacation visits to London also brought new tastes—Dad, always an adventurous eater, married a French woman. Not that I was ready to embrace the salty, royal Roquefort just yet, or wine.
But I never returned to the Italian Café until some years later, when I was 19 or 20, contemplating a move back to London (to do what, I don’t know. Oh yes, I remember, I was going to be a rock star).
I’d meet a new friend, Michael Lock there, for a still cheap dinner before a night in the pubs. And I’d have Bolognese, not butter, on my spaghetti. And a great cappuccino, prior to a few pints of Abbot Ale, most likely at the Glassblowers off Piccadilly, or the Sherlock Holmes, nearer Trafalgar Square. Followed by a long train ride back to London’s edge, where most nights I’d manage to keep my dinner down.
I eat less pasta today, but I managed to melt some butter and toss some pasta in it one chilly evening a few months ago, showering it with some parmesan, and because I’m at least chronologically a grown up, a sprinkle of pepper. It’s still good.
The "odd" accompaniments. The charan mushi has the red spoon protruding from it.
Steel cut oats take much longer to cook—but large batches can be cooked and then stored for use over the next few days. If you can boil water, you can make a steel cut oats. The stove does all the work while you read the paper.
I store it in Tupperware-like containers and scoop out portions as needed. I add 3 chopped prunes, a little brown sugar, and heat it in the microwave. A splash of milk rounds it out. It could easily be greatly improved by adding butter or cream, waistline allowing.
It is a quick, inexpensive, healthy, filling, and, most importantly, tasty way to “greet the day” as a freakish ex co-worker of mine used to say. He was from California. While this is itself not enough to condemn him, nor is it enough to redeem him. He sealed his fate when he confessed to liking Yanni. It’s not that he liked Yanni, but that he didn’t have the sense to keep this to himself.
I had a delicious piece of wild bass at Eleven in the Strip District. It had wonderfully crispy skin, which is difficult to produce on a home stove owing to the necessary heat, which precious few home ranges produce. This had a delicate sauce of reduced fresh grape juice (ver jus in restaurant parlance), some sauteed greens, and gnocchi made with polenta. I had a glass of chardonnay with this, from Chardonnay, the town in France which names the grape. I love American chards, but not with food. They're often aged in Oak barrels, imbuing it with an unctuous, rich, mouth-feel that interferes with my ability to taste the food. French chardonnay-based wines from Burgundy are aged in stainless steel. It gives a cleaner taste and allows the rich quality of the grape to shine, but not overpower.
I also ate at Harris Grill on Ellsworth. Thankfully non-smoking now, the food is still mediocre (and strikes me as a little overpriced). Still, it was late: my band had just finished rehearsing sans our singer Lexi, who was tending bar at Harrises. I had a "salmon BLT," which came with soggy fries. As my mother says, "Hunger is good sauce," so I managed to choke it down.
Note to cooks. French fries should be crisp. To achieve this they are fried twice: once at 325 degrees, then drained. They can then be "crisped" in oil that's heated to 375 degrees. Drain, toss with in a paper bag or with some paper towels, salt liberally, and serve. Yes, ketchup is great with them, but so is malt vinegar and so is homemade mayonaisse.
(If you wish to have perfect fries, go to Pointe Brugge Cafe in Point Breeze. That is where I'm eating tomorrow, and I will have some mussels in a Thai Curry sauce to accompany them.)
On Thursday, the day after my birthday, Susan took me to Chaya in Squirrel Hill for wonderful sushi. Chaya is the only local sushi restaurant to use real wasabi, not generic horseradish that is mixed with mustard powder for pungency. Even the lofty Umi fails to use real wasabi, which has a shorter, more potent punch than the fake stuff. Real wasabi is never mixed with soy sauce to make a dipping sauce. It never blends in as nicely as the fake wasabi anyway. It's in shorter supply in the US as it's difficult to grow outside of Japan.
Chaya is a tiny restaurant, very charming, BYOB, and reasonably priced. Our two dinners, which came with miso soup, salad, and a piece of fried chicken (which I find odd but endearing), came to $50. Unless you intend to order the chef's tasting menu (Omkasse), they do not take reservations. The staff is Japanese, but for one waiter, who has spent time in Japan, and speaks the language. It is one of my favorite Pittsburgh restaurants, and though I'd love to try the cooked food, I keep coming back to the fish. The sushi chef is great to watch, and the restaurant features a small, 4-seat sushi bar.
On Friday our friends Robin and Chuck hosted us for dinner in their charming new arts and craft cottage in McCandless, about 10 miles north of the city. It's so quiet out there! We planned on getting good and toasty and spending the night, so we brought our two dogs along. They greatly enjoyed running around the huge back yard, Toby pausing once to roll in a little deer shit. Both Robin and Chuck are talented remodellers (to the point of replacing all the plumbing themselves), and have made a lovely home. This being her birthday, Robin's father was in town, staying with her sister Dawn nearby. An old friend, it had been a few years since we'd seen each other when he stopped by with Robin's charming young niece Julia.
Chuck's new 3-burner grill made me envious. Boy do they heat up fast, and they can generate much more heat than my 2-burner. Perfect for searing a steak, which you want to cook good and fast for a nice char on the outside, just warming the inside.
I brought over my last block of foie gras- a note here how France is better than the US, as you can buy foie gras pretty much anywhere- which we had on croutons with a little salad. We drank champagne and sipped a wonderful Bordeaux with the steaks. Wonderful night.
Interestingly, friends Keri and David's party the next night also featured the dessert Robin and Chuck served on Friday- burnt almond torte.
One of these days I'll have to get back to cooking.
Chop one large shallot finely and place in large bowl set on a damp kitchen cloth. Add a little salt, some freshly ground pepper (is there any other kind? Do people still buy ground pepper?) and a teaspoon of good Dijon mustard. Mix.
Add 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar and mix. Allow to sit for a few minutes to soften the shallot.
Very slowly whisk in up to one cup of extra virgin olive oil. Seriously slowly. Like, a few drops at a time at first. As the sauce emulsifies you can increase the speed. But expect to take five minutes doing this, at which point you'll have a deeper appreciation for kitchen professionals. Taste as you go for your preferred balance of acid. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
This'll keep a long time in a sealed jar. Don't refrigerate it.
Salads do not require a lot of dressing. There should be a thin film clinging to the leaves. There should be no sauce pooling on the plate. In addition to crappy french fries, most Pittsburgh restaurants overdress their salads.
We have a huge Italian American population- but just about every Italian restaurant in the city serves crappy Italian food. The portions are huge, and of course they have to include a house salad, overdressed, with mealy tomatoes, chick peas and optional gorgonzola. Sheesh.
While they take about two hours to cook, actual prep time is about 20-30 minutes. I had some leftover cooking broth that went into the best batch of harira yet...\
Allow a shank per person.
Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe:
Heavily salt and pepper two shanks and set aside. Preheat oven to 300.
Heat olive oil in an oven-proof pan that can be covered and brown shanks on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove shanks.
In same pan, saute a chopped onion, diced carrot, and chopped celery stalk, about 5 minutes. Add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and some chopped ginger.
Deglaze pan with some red wine, then return shanks to pan. Add enough wine, stock or water, and orange juice to cover (or almost cover) the shanks. Cover and place in oven, turning the shanks every 30 minutes for two hours, at which point the lamb will be fork tender.
Remove cooked shanks from pan and strain the juice, discarding the solids. I put half this rich stock aside, and reduced the rest to about a cup, whisking in a tablespoon of cold butter before serving.
I served each shank on a bed of quinoa, though rice or couscous would work, and drizzled it with sauce and finished it with an orange gremolata:
Finely chop a bunch of parsley. Add a clove of finely chopped garlic, and the finely diced rind of half an orange.
At Philadelphia's Morimoto, and here at Pittsburgh's Umi, I've had delicious miso-glazed black cod, also called sable, or sablefish. A little web research found that the glaze is easy to produce:
You blend miso with sugar, rice vinegar and sake. Heat it, and stir to melt the sugar and cook off the alcohol in the wine. I skipped the sake (since I didn’t have it on hand), and the finished dish was very good.
The goal is to produce a sweet, slightly smoky, sticky glaze on whatever you’re cooking. I used wild salmon from Trader Joe’s.
Miso glazed salmon
Mix ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup miso, ¼ cup rice vinegar, and ¼ cup sake in pan and heat, stirring to dissolve ingredients. Let cool to room temperature.
Marinate salmon (or any firm fish or crustacean) in miso mixture for a minimum of a few hours.
Pre-heat broiler to high. Remove salmon from miso mix and scrape off excess marinade.
Broil under a high heat until fish is cooked to medium and glaze has melted onto the fish, two-to-three minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler. No need to turn the fish.
I failed to get my broiler hot enough. While the glaze eventually melted, the fish had cooked through by the time this had occured. It tasted fine, though missed the tender juiciness of a nice medium rare or medium piece of salmon.
Next up: miso glazed scallops, with some sesame snow peas would be pretty tasty, no? I may even spring for some sake.