December Cucina

Now that the Fall course I’ve been teaching has ended successfully, I’ve had more time to play in the kitchen. This Post is an Omnibus collection of our best efforts.


Many of my breakfasts feature a couple of slices of my sourdough bread. This one shows Organic Hummus from Trader Joe’s, sprinkled with Lebanese Za’atar from Sheffield Spices. Flavor (and color) enhancers are home-pickled jalapeños and quail eggs colored with turmeric.

Another favorite is smoked salmon. This time it was on excellent toasted bagels (with everything) from Mameleh’s in Cambridge. Instead of cream cheese, the bread is smeared with Kite Hill Whipped Ricotta (made from almond milk). The smoked salmon is from Whole Foods house brand, which we find is lower in sodium than many others. Thinly-sliced red onion and Santorini capers are all that’s need to make a rich, satisfying breakfast.


My wife often has meetings or errands outside the house at mid-day, so lunchtime is my preferred window for experimentation and cooking foods she won’t eat. Two such examples are illustrated below.

I love beans, and this time of year, I often have the time to soak dried beans overnight and cook them the next day. Here are three different bean salads in the past two weeks.

Another special food that only I eat is octopus. Normally, I’ve been making dishes with 3-4 lb. Spanish frozen octopus. One time when I was at Portugalia, I also bought a package of frozen “baby” octopus. I believe they were from Indonesia. My understanding is that these are not actually babies, but they are fully-mature versions of a different variety.

In any case I took the package out of the refrigerator the night before, and the next day experimented with two different cooking techniques. One approach was what I learned 12 years ago from Mike Anthony, the chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York.

After braising the octopus I cooked them on the gas grill, rather than cranking up the pizza oven just for a few minutes of searing.

The other method was to try a Sous Vide recipe I found on the internet.

Both batches were good, but the SousVide version took only about one hour, vs. two hours for the slow-oven approach. My conclusion is that sous vide is preferred with baby octopus. They were all good when turned into a salad with beans and peppers.


The one dinner I want to tell you about was a Christmas Eve meal, just for the two of us — Lobster and Corn Risotto. I first made this last year, after a trip to Maine, using the fresh lobsters we bought there. This time I was able to get some lovely lobster meat on sale from Sven Fish, an excellent supplier in our area, who also delivers. Served the risotto with a Vermentino from California. Delicious.

My best wishes to you all for happy holidays and a very good New Year 2023.

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