Just for the record, here are the previously-unpublished best dishes of the month, with and without animal protein.
Just for the record, here are the previously-unpublished best dishes of the month, with and without animal protein.
Whether it be woods, parks, or suburbs, most anywhere in Massachusetts, you will see white-tailed deer in November. Opinions vary significantly on whether this is a good thing or not. Pros: they look cute, they are good targets for hunting, and properly-cooked venison is delicious. Cons: they destroy flowering plants in the winter, they harbor ticks and help spread Lyme disease, and they recently have been found to be widely-infected with COVID-19. A recent study found that 40% of those tested in four states had COVID antibodies. https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/white-tailed-deer-found-be-huge-reservoir-coronavirus-infection
With that introduction I will show you the view from my driveway one afternoon a few weeks ago.
We have close friends who live in Portland, ME. It’s about a 2-hour drive to go there, so we don’t go often. A better solution is often to meet halfway, which is usually Portsmouth, NH. When we decided to get together a couple of weeks ago, I examined the restaurant choices but found nothing exciting for lunch. Instead, I decided to drive 5 minutes further north, across the bridge from NH, and into Kittery, ME. We agreed to meet there for lunch at Robert’s Maine Grill, and we had a perfect seafood meal and plenty of time to visit with our friends before they leave for San Miguel, Mexico, to escape the harsh New England winter.
Here are the food highlights:
Here is Chef John’s approach, which I recently applied to 4 octopus legs from New Deal Fish Market:
and the full recipe is here: https://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2017/07/spanish-octopus-now-100-trick-free.html
I made this for lunch one afternoon, as shown below.
Our friend Gemma is one person whose food and wine tastes resonate closely with ours, so I was delighted to get a message recently that she would come for a visit and stay for lunch. Her timing was excellent. I had just been to Eataly for prosciutto, cheeses, and fresh porcini, and I had recently cook some octopus, so we had all the basics.
Gemma generously gave us a sampling of her wines (see Erbaluce posted earlier today), and I assembled lunch easily with what was available.
We should do this more often! Buon appetito.
One of my favorite haunts for food and wine is Eataly Boston. It has excellent selections of some of my favorite Italian foods. It’s a large store, and it is often crowded, so as one who despises crowds (even BEFORE the pandemic), I pick and choose my times to go there carefully. My top two choices are (1) holiday mornings when they are open, (e.g. Labor Day), and (2) Sunday mornings between 9 and 10 AM, when they have just opened. Another benefits of those choices is that I can usually park on the street, very close by, for free!
My last visit was Sunday two weeks ago, and I picked up superb cheeses, prosciutto, radicchio Treviso, and my favorite hot pepper tarallini. My plan was to go from there to a wine store in Chestnut Hill that I like (but don’t go near often). That store opened at noon on Sunday, so there was an opportunity to go to a Greek restaurant across the street from Eataly — Krasi Boston. I’ve been looking for a chance to try it, but they are open for dinner every day at 5 pm and brunch only on Saturday and Sunday.
I arrived not long after they opened, and the best seat was at the end of the bar, near the door (social distancing, as always).
I interacted with two servers behind the bar, one about food, and the other — for wine. The food choice was easy:
saganaki fried egg, kasseri, feta, boukovo (crushed red pepper flakes), cherry tomatoes, barley rusk $14
The wine selection was a bit more complicated, but the server — Tasha — was up to the task of dealing with a fussy customer like me. After she provided some tastes of a couple of candidates, I settled on a special Assyrtiko she recommended, and it was perfect!
It was a flavorful, successful interval, and I had plenty of time for my next stop at Winestone. Krasi is the kind of meze place I love, so I will return when I can.
Since I’m a month and a half behind on my blogging, I make no pretense about maintaining chronological order — this is Catch-Up time!
This first post is about two lunches this week, featuring a white wine from Piedmont, a gift from my good friend, Gemma, a wine importer and distributor in Massachusetts.
Yesterday’s lunch was a simple salad of grilled octopus, served on a bed of Castelfranco Radicchio, a delightful heirloom Italian vegetable, and accompanied by chunks of sweet Piquillo peppers, imported from Peru.
We had already tasted this wine earlier in the week, first with a spinach gnocchi and vegetables dish, and then with some grilled swordfish for dinner.
But it was with the two salads that Erbaluce di Caluso really shone. The bitterness of the radicchio somehow matched beautifully with the acidic herbaceous qualities of the wine. It worked equally well today with my eclectic salad — sautéed Tatsoi, julienned raw beet, and Ricotta Salata. I also made a batch of Caponata yesterday, and that completed the lunch today nicely.
Thank you, Gemma.
I have two reference points for Spanish cooking. One is Claudia Roden, an author with a wide range of cookbooks touching much of the Mediterranean. She is also the author of Food of Spain, a magnificent compendium with 609 pages and dozens of superb recipes and associated commentary. The other is Penelope Casas, the author of seven cookbooks on the cuisine of Spain (and I have six of them, all well-used).
Tonight I was in the mood for a traditional Spanish Tortilla, but I also was looking to add some excellent prosciutto from Eataly Boston into the dish, so with a little research into Penelope’s Foods and Wines of Spain (where I usually go for the recipe), I found exactly what I needed.
I made two small changes to the recipe: (1) using prosciutto slices for the cured ham, and (2) finishing the tortilla in the oven, under a hot broiler, so I didn’t have to risk flipping it while the egg on top was still liquid.
All I needed to add was a small salad with Bibb lettuce, Castelfranco, and vinaigrette (plus a few raw green beans, the last from our garden on the deck), and a small Imam (eggplant dish) leftover from dinner at a Greek restaurant last night. For wine accompaniment, a bottle of Abadiá da Cova, from the Caino grape was a perfect choice.
It turns out that broiling the top of the tortilla and flipping it after it was done allowed me to turn it over safely on the serving plate, The dramatic effect of the crisped prosciutto which became the top was secured by this approach. It was a totally successful meal, definitely worth repeating.
Once again, I enjoyed a meal featuring homemade pasta and marvelous, fresh oyster mushrooms. I was feeling a bit bereft during August because my source for top-notch mushrooms was on vacation. Elizabeth Almeida, the entrepreneur and founder of Fat Moon Farm in Westford, MA, had explained to me that oyster mushrooms like it cool, so they don’t do well during our hot Augusts, which is why she and her family take vacation then. They take a hiatus in the mushroom growing activities, so I had to wait another month to repeat the success I had in June, using my newly-discovered technique for sautéeing them first in a broth with butter, before adding them to pasta.
Yesterday I went to the farm to pick up two 1-lb. bags of perfect mushrooms they prepared for me. I was very eager to make my pasta, and then to create a new recipe that would highlight the main ingredients. I saved the second package to make a risotto in a few nights hence.
We had a new chunk of pancetta in the refrigerator, so I sliced some of that, chopped the pieces coarsely, and proceeded with the mushroom preparation. Here, again, is the simple recipe for that process:
A pound of oyster mushrooms is a lot of mushrooms, so after tearing them into smaller pieces, I took out a large sautéuse, added a pint of vegetable stock plus 3 Tbs. of sweet butter, brought it to a boil, and cooked it on high heat until much of the liquid was gone. I took out a few tablespoons of the buttery liquid to add to the sauce, before all the moisture evaporated from the pan. Next, I continued to sauté the mushrooms — which now were glistening with butter in the pan — until they were lights browned and tasty.
In the meantime I had sautéed the pancetta with a little olive oil until it was crispy, and I set it aside to reheat and add to the top of the pasta. I made a small side dish with zucchini and corn off-the-cob from end-of-the-season Harper’s Farm Butter and Sugar corn. As you know, fresh pasta cooks in just a few minutes, so I added the fettuccine to the sautéeing mushrooms, and cooked them together for a few minutes. An open bottle of a Rhône-style white wine from Sans Liege completed the table. We each had a full serving and ate it all.
One of the great joys of late August in New England in the rich bounty of ripe vegetables and fruits at their peak conditions. If there is a tagline to this post, it would say, “how you cook it makes all the difference.”
I have two examples from tonight’s dinner. My wife wanted miso soup and sushi from our local Asian restaurant — and I was in the mood for cooking — so we agreed amicably to have two different dinners. I picked up her order at the restaurant and delivered it with some beer from the package store, so she was happy. I had a taste of the sushi, and my own bottle of beer, while I sat with her at an early supper.
Now, back to the main event. I had two perfect vegetables that were looking for the right recipe. One was a small, firm, glossy eggplant; the other was a container of baby Brussels Sprouts. In my experience there are many people who are not crazy about either of these. I believe I could convert a good many of these folks to enthusiastic fans with these two dishes:
The Eggplant Confit recipe was new to me this week. I got it from the Food52 website. I found it to be clear, straightforward, accurate, and delicious.
It gave me a chance to use all my favorite ingredients: salted Sicilian anchovies, crisp garlic, lemon thyme from our herb garden, and lots of Portuguese olive oil.
When the dish was finished and at room temperature, I marveled at the silky texture and rich flavor.
By contrast, the other recipe was one I had played with off and on over the last 8-10 years. The origin of this dish was a dinner we had in Portmouth, NH, at the restaurant Cava. A couple of months later, when our son was home and cooking dinner for our friends and us, he made a spectacular version of it, just from our oral description of it.
The trigger for me this week was a container of baby Brussels Sprouts I saw at Westward Orchards (a farm 1/2 mile away) when I stopped yesterday to get more peaches for the cobbler my wife wanted to make for our family dinner.
All I had to do was to preheat the oven to 500° F., dice some pancetta from a frozen log of it in the freezer, drizzle on some oil (I had plenty in the baking dish from the eggplant confit), and watch it carefully so it didn’t burn in the hot oven.
In addition I needed to put make the sauce, which is what brings all the flavors together in an exciting way. The only two ingredients for that are a good, whole-grain Dijon mustard, and a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. Mix them together, smear across the plate, and place the roasted sprouts and pancetta on top.
They complemented the soft, delicate texture and flavor of the eggplant and its tasty partner, the anchovy.
Normally, I would have obsessed about which wine to serve with this combo. However, as an appetizer I had blistered several Padron Peppers from our garden. Most were mild, but one was real hot. Fortunately, I had decided to save some of my Jamaican Red Stripe beer to drink with it. That also went well with the main course and the beer mustard dressing.
Finally, I also had an open bottle of a 2007 Black Slate, a Spanish wine favorite of Grenache and Carignan grapes. Very good as well.