We make a concerted effort to recycle as much as possible. Paper, plastic, bottles and cans, and much of the detritus of lifestyle in this century requires that effort. I take the piles to the town Transfer Station weekly and have done so for many years.

It turns out that this all provides a good metaphor for managing leftovers in the refrigerator as well. As an example, I offer this dish which was my lunch for several days this week. Over the course of the week, I had made and consumed beans and rice in separate meals, ending up with leftovers of each. By sautéing some leeks and cutting up a tomato, and heating them up with a little water and olive oil, I was able to turn it into delicious and attractive dish.

Last night for dinner, I prepared some small octopus — cooking it for an hour Sous Vide — and then grilling it outside.

Naturally, there was some little octopi left over, along with the remaining bean/rice concoction, so they were combined for today’s lunch in the last incarnation of those long-ago ingredients.

While I am re-using concepts, I applied recycling to recipes, too. To get inspiration for our dinners, I recently used this blog. I was looking for seasonal successes in years past, so I searched the blog for interesting alternatives from the same season in prior years. Lo and behold, I found a recipe for Homemade Spinach Tagliatelle with Asparagus Sauce in March, 2018, and I decided to replicate it.

Using some leftover cheese filling from a recent ravioli dinner, I made an accompanying dish of zucchini rolls filled with the cheese and a light touch of tomato sauce, and then baked it for 30 minutes.

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Food and Flowers Fotos

Aside from the alliteration, this post provides a short photo essay of some recent dishes and decorations.

Beet salad with watercress, pistachios, Brique de Brebis Basque sheep milk cheese, and tomato

Moroccan style shrimp & tomatoes

grated beet salad with salami and mushroom-cheese bruschetta

smoked salmon and whipped ricotta on fried sourdough bread

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“Crab Cakes” Made from Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

One of the most exciting food experiences I had recently was the discovery that I could make a meal that looked and tasted like crab cakes, using Lion’s Mane mushrooms instead of crab meat. The trigger to this marvel was a recipe I received from Villa Creek, one of my favorite California winemakers.

I tried it a few weeks ago, and it was remarkable good and evocative of real crab.

I’m somewhat familiar with Lion’s Mane mushrooms. I take a supplement made from them by Fungi Perfecti. While it is impossible to prove it, my experience is that their claim of enhanced mental clarity, focus, and memory is substantiated. At age 81, I need those things, and it seems to be working.

Lion’s Mane also taste good, when prepared properly. I find that they need quite different treatment than other mushrooms, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.

We are fortunate to have an excellent local supplier of fresh mushrooms, Fat Moon Farm. The owner, Elizabeth Almeida, and her small crew grow superb Oyster and other mushrooms, including Lion’s Mane. Normally, I buy a bag of mushrooms to cook with. Recently, I decided to purchase a grow kit for Lion’s Mane, just to try it out. This dovetailed perfectly with the crab cake opportunity.

It took two weeks, starting with a block of sawdust infused with Lion’s Mane spores, to grow two lbs. of fully-grown mushrooms. All it took was spraying the block several times a day and waiting patiently for the results.

Here is the evidence of my first effort:

An intriguing part of the process to make these cakes is the use of a 2-inch hard plastic cookie cutter being used as a form to shape the mixture into a firm and attractive “crab” cake. A couple of weeks later (due to popular demand from my main customer (wife)), I made another batch, with more careful attention to the shaping and frying, as is shown below.

Many white wines would go well with this dish. I particularly enjoyed this very-affordable Chardonnay from Burgundy; thank you, Eileen and Social Wines.

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My Best Homemade Ravioli

I guess I have been making pasta at home for at least 30 years, and ravioli have been a part of that quite often. I’ve tried a wide variety of tools to make ravioli, but until recently, no one method for doing so has been foolproof. Recently I discovered a technique on YouTube one evening, and it has inspired a revolution for me. The full video is called “Delicious Lobster Ravioli at 1 Michelin Star Bozar restaurant in Brussels, Belgium”, and it’s almost 16 minutes long. However, much of the video showed details of making the pasta sheets and preparing the filling — none of which was new to me. The one breakthrough was the section about forming the ravioli, using a pair of concentric hard plastic cookie cutters, so I have excerpted that portion — which is about 2 minutes long — to show you.

forming the ravioli with concentric cookie cutters

Rather than apply this technique for the first time with expensive lobster (which I did not have available), I chose instead to make a spinach and cheese ravioli with a simple classic tomato sauce. It was wonderful.

For the filling, I steamed a bunch of Small Farm young spinach leaves and mixed them with Kite Hill ricotta and whipped ricotta cheeses. The pasta sheets were made with 92 grams of Caputo “00” flour and one extra large egg, plus a little olive oil. And the tomato sauce was Marcella Hazan’s incomparable Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter.

Aaron’s Arizona Sangiovese was a lovely match.

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Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Risotto

One photo tells the whole story….

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Octopus, Again?

Some of my loyal readers are repelled by the idea of eating octopus, and others may simply be tired of the many times I post about it. If you are in either category, my apologies. Please just move on to the next posting.

The methodology this time was the same as my entry, Octopus 5.0, described here two years ago. It’s a combination of food-scientist-writer, Harold McGee’s simple poaching process, followed by Jesse Schenker’s overnight marinating bath in citrus-infused olive oil with herbs. Below are some of the prep steps, showing the oil bath, chopped herbs and garlic, Sicilian sea salt, and Calabrian chili peppers.

This was a 4.5 lb. Spanish octopus, purchased frozen from Portugalia. One of the joys of this food is the number of delicious meals I can make from it. This week’s list included:

  • Pulpo alla Gallega
  • grilled octopus with roasted Portobello mushrooms
  • octopus with grilled radicchio
  • grilled octopus with King City Pinks beans (Ranch Gordo) and more Radicchio di Treviso
  • octopus with potatoes and arugula
  • octopus with sweet onions and potatoes

You can quickly browse through the dishes shown below. The one new technique that I learned was McGee’s description of concentrating the juices released in the poaching process. There was a quart of intensely-rich flavored juice in the pot when it was done cooking for 5 hours at 200° F., all of it from the octopus which started in a dry pot. Those juices were boiled down considerably to produce an even more intense sauce, which greatly enhanced the octopus and beans dish, enough so that a full-bodied red wine was the right accompaniment.

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Tartine-Style Country Loaf Sourdough

I’ve been making Tartine sourdough breads for 12 years, but it’s only in the last 9 months that the quality and consistency has been what I hoped to achieve. The main reason for this success is a guy named Charlie Anderson, whose web name is The Regular Chef.

It was his YouTube video that helped me identify and correct the defects in my bread-making process. This 15-minute gem has made a world of difference for me:

My most recent experience was less than a week ago. The two loaves came out great.

For the record, I made a couple of small adjustments to his recipe, as a matter of personal taste. He uses 900 grams of white bread flour and 100 grams of whole wheat flour. My tweak adds 50 grams of freshly-milled rye flour and reduces the bread flour to 850 grams.

Charlie also prefers making three smaller loaves. I did it that way several times. Though that approach has its benefits, I prefer making two larger loaves. It’s up to you.

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I was shopping at Trader Joe’s last week, and I stumbled on a new and attractive box of dried pasta, Italian-made Organic Lemon Torchietti.

It was appealing enough to buy it and try it the next night. I had also purchased a small bag of Meyer Lemons there. I love them because they are less acidic, taste great, and have deep orangey-yellow skin for zesting. I read a Meyer Lemon Sauce recipe on the internet. It was too complicated for this pasta, but I did use Meyer lemon zest and juice, one chopped shallot, plus unsalted butter, as part of the sauce.

Unlike my usual extravaganzas, this meal involved boiling the pasta, placing it in a bowl with frozen green peas and some leftover broccoli rabe, adding Meyer lemon flavorings, grated Pecorino cheese, and a splash of olive oil. It was easy, colorful and delicious. I can definitely recommend this pasta.

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Guanciale and Pasta alla Gricia

Another very Italian dish in this mini-series is Pasta alla Gricia. The name rolls tripplingly off the tongue in Italian, less so in English as “pasta gray”. I was led to research and then make this dish because of “guanciale” (cured pork jowl). I had finally tried guanciale properly about a month ago, when making an authentic version of Pasta Amatricana, and I decided I really do like it at least as much as pancetta.

The recipe for alla Gricia is pretty simple:

Rather than duplicate the details here, I refer you to an excellent article by Sasha Marx on Serious Eats.

Here’s what the dish looked like when done. Quite delicious. A Godello from Spain was a good match.

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Zucchini Leeks Shrimp Morels Risottto

Usually when I cook, I start with a recipe, either something I’ve made before, or a new one I want to try. Yesterday was different. I decided to create a new risotto dish from some items I had in mind, thinking that they might make an especially good meal in combination together. The specific ingredients were:

  • zucchini – I had 3 available, but one in particular was beginning to shrivel and had to be used immediately
  • leeks – I had two large ones and two small segments, so I grabbed the small ones to use
  • shrimp – We always have a bag of EZ-Peel small shrimp in the freezer. They are frozen individually, so it’s easy to defrost precisely the number I want. I decided on 8 for a balanced dish with the vegetables, BUT when I left the kitchen for a few minutes, the other chef (my wife) decided that was too skimpy, so she doubled the quantity while I wasn’t looking.
  • morel mushrooms – shopping Sunday at Eataly Boston, I found some gorgeous fresh mushrooms (chanterelles and morels). Since I had never cooked morels, I bought just two of them, to give them a try with this dish.

I had an image in my mind of a umami-rich bowl of rice cooked gently over an extended time period with these ingredients, all merged together with the broth and the fats of risotto. Remarkably, it worked.

You’ll notice a few whole shrimp on top, which is how I dealt with the surfeit of shrimp which came my way suddenly.

Here are all the details, should you be tempted to try it. It was one of the best risotti I ever had.

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