Two Meals of Grains — One at Home, One Dining Out

Last week I had two excellent dishes featuring grains. The first was made at home, with Pearled Black Barley from Maine Grains. The vegetables in the dish included sweet red peppers, chopped fennel, tomatoes, and onions. Protein was enhanced with chunks of Halloumi cheese. It was colorful and delicious.

Later in the week, I had dinner out with a friend, and we ate at Field & Vine in Somerville, MA. This was my first time at this restaurant, and the food was very good. Here are some photos inside and a copy of the menu that evening.

open kitchen
adjacent table
You may need to read this carefully more than once; good sense of humor.

We shared a few dishes, but the highlight of the evening was the Whole Wheat Cavatelli, circled above. It was one of the best pasta dishes I ever ate — flavor, texture, colors, all superb.


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Spring Onions

I’m never quite sure what to do with Spring Onions, those smallish onions that look like large scallions with bigger bulbs. I do like the brightness of the flavors, and this past year, I actually grew some of them in my little herb garden. Here’s a good description of how to take an onion which has been too long in your onion basket and has started to sprout:


Here’s what they look like in my herb garden today:

Here’s what they look like in my herb garden

A few days ago I pulled up three of these onions, and I cleaned them and cut them into green sections and bulbs. They sat in the refrigerator until last night, when I decided to try a new recipe with them, using the sea scallops from my weekly Vermont-based provisioner — Farmers to You.


Neither of us likes Tarragon, so as I adapted the recipe to our tastes — rice milk, less flour, cream instead of crème fraiche — I substituted fresh lemon thyme for tarragon. For accompaniment I made some mixed rices and freshly-delivered Swiss Chard leaves, cooked with chopped garlic. The results were terrific.

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No, that’s not the name of a new Italian sports car. It’s actually a member of the Broccoli family, but it looks more like Kale, and I just learned how to cook it properly.

this is a photo from the internet, Spigarello in raw form

Like many of my favorite greens from the South of Italy, this vegetable takes kindly to bold flavors. I found a superb recipe by Mark Peel, chef-owner of Campanile restaurant in Los Angeles.

I decided to make it for lunch today, pairing it with some leftover grilled Spanish Mackerel, coated with a Blackened Fish spice mixture. A drizzle of fresh lemon juice on the fish, a plate of cooked Spigarello, and a glass of white wine from Liguria, and all was right with the world for at least two hours.

Spigarello, blackened Mackerel, and sautéed potatoes

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Broccoli Rabe with Matzo Balls

When it comes to ethnicity, food, and wine, I encourage vigorous interactions. They usually produce results that are unorthodox, exciting, and very successful. Such was the case with my lunch today. Our local farmers produce excellent vegetables, including greens of all sorts. Yesterday I bought a bunch of their greens, including Broccoli Rabe. It was bright green, very clean, and ready for whatever I wanted to do with it.

Classical treatment suggested 3-4 minutes blanching in well-salted water. Then the greens were chopped coarsely and sautéed in a very hot skillet with olive oil, garlic, and crushed hot peppers from Calabria.

Now comes the invention: we had a few of Barbara’s superb matzo balls leftover from the Seder on Saturday and lunch on Sunday. This afternoon she declared she was done for the season, but they are so good, I could not bring myself to throw them out. After sautéeing the Rabe, I decided to heat up some of the matzo balls and serve them with the greens. Wow!!! Delicious.

To complete the extraordinary blend of cultures, I had a glass of my new favorite Portuguese white wine, a 2020 Taboadella Encruzado from Portugalia. A home run in any language.

Broccoli Rabe with Matzo Balls

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#21 – Moroccan Eggplant and Olive Tagine

I bought my first computer in 1995, for the explicit purpose of scanning recipes from food magazines I had saved. I knew computers were available earlier, but I needed two accessories in addition to accomplish my goal: (1) a high-quality scanner, and (2) software with OCR capability to enable me to search recipes by ingredients.

Since those days we know how much technology has expanded, and we see so many resources available through the internet that the information available to us foodies has exploded exponentially. I have about 7,000 recipes collected in my food files on Dropbox now, so I can access them from computers or smartphones wherever I am able to connect. This collection is curated. I only add dishes I have made and enjoyed, or ones I have found that I think we will like. They come from my cookbooks, food blogs, friends and family, newspapers, YouTube videos, and my own experimentation.

So what? Why this preamble?

Tonight’s dinner — Moroccan Eggplant and Olive Tagine — was relatively straightforward and very successful. It has been in my files since August, 2013, but this was the first time I tried it. I’d like to use this as an example to illustrate how multiple methods of organizing all these data provides a variety of ways to keep your cooking fresh and exciting.

One of those many organizing techniques was the creative gift my wife gave me for my birthday several years ago. She had taken the printed copies of recipes I used often (or had planned to try), sorted them by category, did the three-hole punch routine, placed the paper in plastic sleeves, and filled two large loose-leaf notebooks (each 5-inches thick). These books included some of the photos from the magazine clippings or internet postings, in addition to the ingredients/instructions for many recipes. Each book contained over 200 recipes — numbered and listed in the Index.

Recipes — Book One

As a result I sometimes choose to BROWSE these books for inspiration, and that’s how I selected #21 — tonight’s Tagine. I knew I wanted something different, featuring Eggplant. I could have easily searched my computerized files using that keyword, but there are so many dishes in the files that I might not have focused on this dish. Browsing enabled me to see it, so it’s a supplemental way to search — slower, but more visual, more contemplative. Not unlike leafing through a cookbook, another browsing approach I use to explore.

Ah, yes…the dish.

Recipe #21

I must apologize for the photos. We were so enamored with eating that I did not get any of my usual photos showing preparation or the finished results on the plate. As I was putting away the small amount of leftovers, I did get enough to show you the key elements — Tagine, Quinoa, and pan-seared lemon wedge.

closeup of leftovers

The wine was a marvelous new rosé (Grenache and Mourvedre) from Villa Creek in Paso Robles. Another footnote is that we did not have any chickpeas handy, so I substituted beans already cooked and available. They were Alubia Blanca beans, a small, white Spanish bean from Rancho Gordo. I think they were even better.
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Fine Pasta Lunch in Less than 30 Minutes

Most packaged dry pastas cook in about 12 minutes or less. Last week I was able to do a delicious pasta lunch from scratch very quickly.


  • 170 g Penne pasta from La Dolda (or any good short pasta)
  • chopped fresh Upland Cress (or any leafy green vegetable)
  • homemade dried breadcrumbs
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • olive oil
  • chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 small tomato, roughly chopped


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to taste. Pour the Penne into the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, add 2-3 tbsp. of olive oil to a skillet or sauté pan. Toast the breadcrumbs on moderate heat, add the green vegetable and cook until wilted, and add the tomatoes and cook until they are a little soft and juicy.
  3. Drain the pasta, saving 1/2 to 1 cup of pasta cooking water to help make a sauce.
  4. Add the pasta to the sauté pan with the vegetables, plus some of the pasta water, cooking for 1-2 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste (you should not need much). Stir all together, and add chili flakes if desired.
  6. Toss with Parmesan or Pecorino cheese. I always add some flavorful olive oil on top.

Mangia bene!

The last step has nothing to do with the recipe, but it enhanced the meal for me. If you have a friend (as we do) who gave you an amazing orchid plant two years ago, and if your wife has brought it back to flowering again (with both her green thumbs), walk over to it, take a photo, and SMILE!

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For Fans of Marcella and Victor Hazan

If you are passionate about good food, you probably are familiar with Marcella Hazan. And if you really care about Italian cooking, Marcella has directly or indirectly already played a role in your appreciation and approach.

I’ve been a devotee for about 40 years, and I am writing tonight to solicit your support for a project I just learned about today.

Message I received today from Peter Miller, documentary film-maker:

As you may have heard, I’m making a documentary about Marcella Hazan, my food hero. I saw your post to Victor’s Facebook page and suspect that we are kindred spirits in our esteem for the work of Marcella and Victor. My goal is to make a documentary for wide audiences that will bring Marcella’s story to the world. We are in the final week of a Kickstarter for the documentary, which will help make it possible for us to complete filming. I wonder if you might consider sharing news about the campaign on your blog, or with anyone you think might be interested.

If so, here’s the link:

I’ve signed up, and I do hope this project is a success. We will all benefit.

I’ve been writing this blog now for 12 years. There have been more than 600 posts, and Marcella is featured in 29 of them. Victor, too, has an important role for me in food and wine.

Thanks for considering a timely contribution.

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Grilled Manchego Cheese and Wild Mushroom Crostini

My favorite simple lunch these days is made with nothing more than bread, wild mushrooms, and sheep milk cheese. Sometimes I embellish it slightly, in this case with a few cherry tomatoes.

Sometimes I use a slice or two of my sourdough bread; when I want to feel luxurious, I slice some of the Tuscan pane my wife buys (essentially an Italian white bread). Then I spread an assortment of cooked wild mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, and chestnut mushrooms) on the bread, cover with slices of Manchego or other sheep milk cheese, and grill under the broiler until the cheese gets bubbly and slightly crisp.

Here’s what it looks like.

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Homemade Spinach Tagliatelle and Ikarian Soufico

Ever since I read this article in the New York Times 10 years ago, I have been interested in the Greek island of Ikaria. The lifestyle and food habits seemed perfectly suited to my own values, so I am always looking for recipes from Ikaria to incorporate into my life.

If you don’t have a subscription to the Times, here is a PDF version of the article:

Last week I made some homemade spinach tagliatelle, and I needed a vegetable side dish. I found a perfect choice in the cookbook, The Blue Zones Kitchen, written by Dan Buettner — the author of the NYT article. The dish was Springtime Soufico, an unassuming but perfectly delicious little vegetable stew. Naturally, I had to eliminate the green pepper for my wife’s benefit, but the rest was as designed.

I had made the tagliatelle two days earlier, using a batch of fresh spinach that needed to be cooked just then. I left the noodles to dry out in the refrigerator, and then decided to pair them with roasted garlic and little cubes of pancetta, as the pasta dish for the night.

A bottle of 2017 Agiorgitiko provided a lovely medium-bodied red wine from Greece to pull together all the flavors very nicely.

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Late, Quick Lunch

It was close to 2 PM, and I hadn’t even thought about lunch. My go-to meal in this situation is normally a pasta dish, so I searched the cabinets for a small bag of dried pasta, leftover from a previous larger meal. Success; I found a single portion of Penne pasta. Next step was to concoct some sort of a quick sauce, preferably something unusual — not the prosaic tomato sauce or pesto, which were handy but not interesting. I started with anchovies. One salt-packed Cetara anchovy from Campania was rinsed, desalted, and boned, producing two beautiful fillets, and I was off and running:


  • Penne pasta
  • anchovies, filleted and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 large tomato. diced
  • 1 tbs. Tartufata
  • Preserved lemon paste
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Upland Cress
  • Pecorino cheese

Step number one was to start of large pot of water and bring it to a boil. When it reached the rolling boil stage, I added a handful of Kosher salt and then the Penne. This would cook for 14-15 minutes, while I prepared the sauce.

In my favorite sauté pan, I melted the butter, then added the garlic. When the garlic began to get some color, I added anchovies, followed by the olive oil and tomato pieces. When the tomato was fairly tender, I slipped in the Tartufata (mixture of finely chopped mushrooms and truffle), followed by a tsp. of Preserved Lemon Paste. When the pasta was cooked al dente, I added it to the sauté pan, along with 1/2 cup of hot pasta water. A handful or two or homemade breadcrumbs and a small bowl of Upland Cress leaves added texture and flavor. I sprinkled on a handful grated Pecorino and a gratuitous glug of Moroccan olive oil. The pasta was served with a 2017 Pretiosa, Albanello from Sicily. Molto bene!

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