Following a recipe

Sam Sifton named this as one of his favorite new dishes of 2010 recently, a whole wheat pasta and chick pea dish from Del Posto.

I made it recently and it really is good... though I agree with Susan that it might have benefited from a bit of lemon zest.

It's rare that I follow recipes to the letter but I think I did with this one, down to including the "juice" from the canned chickpeas, something I'd ordinarily spurn. (Canned beans are a standby for me. I do love home-prepped dry beans, but when you're in a hurry....)

Bonito-- shaved, dried tuna. I bought some ages ago to make broth for miso soup. It really does add a briny dimension to the dish. I bought it at one of the Asian stores in the Strip District.

The dish also reheats well. I melted some butter and sauteed the leftovers in it.


Mock Aloo Gobi

If you keep a well-stocked spice cabinet, Indian-flavored food is quite easy to assemble. I'm sure my "curries" are non-traditional- they certainly do not follow any recipes- but they're quite tasty, quick, and nourishing. This technique (if I dare call it that), which results in a flavorful sauce, can then be customized with the vegetables, meat, leftovers of your choice.

I used cauliflower and potato, resulting in a mock Aloo Gobi. Neither were cooked, but it's a simple matter to cut and roast a cauliflower and peel, cube and boil some potatoes.

While they cooked, I made a basic mirepoix, sauteeing chopped carrots, celery and onion in some EVO with S and P. I know that this is French technique, but it adds an incomparable flavor base.

While they sauteed, I made my spice mix, starting with cardamom.

A little cardamom goes a long way. The raisin-looking green pods can be added whole to dishes; they're inedible, but add an exotic, citrusy flavor to rice dishes, soups, and sauces easily.

I also like the little black seeds (which resemble slightly larger poppyseeds) inside the pods. These needn't be fished out of the finished dishes. However I prefer crushing these seeds into powder with my mortar and pestle. If you start with about a dozen seeds it takes about 30 seconds. I have a one-ounce jar of the seeds which will probably outlive its use to me.

So, in my mortar I pestled the dozen (or so) cardamom seeds. To this I added a rounded tablespoon of cumin, a teaspoon of Tumeric, 1/2 teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of hot paprika, same of cinnamon, then very little clove powder, grated nutmeg and cayenne. Took about a minute in all, and I eyeballed the measurements. Let's call this "garam masala."

The vegetables were still softening over medium heat, so I peeled and grated some ginger and garlic, and finely chopped the garlic. The potatoes were done, so I drained them and added them back to the warm pan to dry.... the cauliflower was starting to brown nicely at 350, but needed some more time (about a total of 30 minutes).

I added the ginger and garlic to the vegetables and sauteed about 30 seconds, allowing the aromas to bloom. I added the spice mix and stirred to coat the vegetables.

I added about a tablespoon of butter to the pan, and when that melted added about 1/8 cup of flour, stirring them together for about a minute to make a roux, which would give this saucy dish a pleasing consistency. I next added about two cups of stock* slowly, a little at a time, first allowing the liquid to pick up the burnt sugars that had cooked out of the vegetables from the bottom of the pan, then to slowly incorporate the thickening action of the roux. It took me about two minutes to add all the liquid.

I added the potatoes, then, when it was finally cooked about ten minutes later, the cauliflower. I let the whole thing mingle together for about 10 minutes, eventually adding a little more stock and salt. It then went over leftover wild rice, finished with a spoonful of yogurt. Some chopped cilantro wouldn't have been out of place, nor some chopped chives, but I had neither.

*stock: I make this with whatever I have on hand. I free all my bones and vegetable scraps for this purpose. My stocks, as a result, are never the same. Stocks are frozen in old 1-quart yogurt containers. I suspect this batch of stock had some chicken and duck bones in it, the duck leftover from some earlier duck confit. So, technically, this batch of Aloo Gobi could not be deemed vegetarian.




Beans, simmered with pork (a fresh ham hock this time).

Duck confit.

Pork belly confit.

One of my favorite dishes, ever. So satisfying, so warming, so filling.

But it's a lot of work, so I only make it once a year.

And then I enjoy it with lots of friends.

Hmmmm.... what to drink

OK, it's snowing, I'm blowing off yoga because I came home and shovelled, walked the dogs and cooked a cauliflower and potato curry. No yoga + chores = cocktail.

But what to have? I usually favor the brown stuff in colder months, but honestly I'm craving something a little brighter. I have fresh lemons... a White Lady?

Better yet, a Sidecar: a White Lady made with brandy instead of gin. I can "winterize" it with the addition of a spiced cherry steeped in booze and twist the oil from an orange rind on top, similar to another winter favorite, an Old Fashioned.


Chill a cocktail glass

Over ice stir

2 parts brandy or cognac

1 part cointreau or triple sec

1 part fresh lemon juice

Strain into chilled glass. Plop in a good quality aged, steeped cherry, then twist the oil out of a piece of orange rind on top. Tastes like Christmas, but in a place bereft of snow.