Category Archives: food

Pasta, piecing, and puzzling

Rabe, red onion, and peppers sautéed in bacon fat and garlic-infused olive oil served on gluten-free pasta with Asagio cheese. Not shown: a few crumbles of bacon to finish. Soooo delicious!

Meanwhile, piecing and puzzling. Both a little mindless. Reviewed a short story to submit around. It would be ideal to have SOMETHING published before manuscript is looked at. I took yesterday off from it completely and today: avoid, avoid, avoid. This happens. It’s one reason why I’m pretty convinced it’s better to work every day, even if only a little.

When I couldn’t sleep last night, I came downstairs and read. This is Mark Helprin’s newest book and given that he is one of my favorite novelists of all time, I’ve been surprised at how slow my engagement’s been. But now I’m in! It’s set in modern day Paris, no surprise, given the title.

Denver eats, return

Watching Deadline Whitehouse, making chicken stock and dinner — I must be home. The sky is leaden, rain imminent — I must be home.

Trip to see younger son in Colorado was a little disorienting because we had no room to furnish or apartment to find or supplies to buy. Didn’t drop several hundred dollars at Target, so we went out to eat instead!

Best meal in Denver was not either of the three-dollar-sign dinners, but rather a reasonably priced lunch at Rotary Eats, one of the stalls in a place called Avanti. Avanti : like a food court, only good!

Exterior of Avanti, above, and interior, below.

My selections were roasted chicken thighs, roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce and golden raisins, and the best homemade potato chips I’ve ever had.

Our first special dinner was at The Black Cat in Boulder. The place gets great reviews and takes seriously the farm to table model of dining, but I didn’t like all the pickled vegetables or the flavor of the sauce served with my artisanal pork, so I was a little disappointed. I’m prepared to admit that the fault lay with my palette and not the food preparation. Salad was outstanding — greens picked that morning! — as was the service.

Brunch at “duo” in Denver proved disappointing, too, probably because I’ve had southern biscuits and the biscuits in my breakfast were grainy and muffin-like. K loved his meal, shown next to mine below.

(Biscuits and gravy with two eggs).

Sharing the meal with Denver friends we see about once a year, Marc and Kim, was great though. Marc and I went to law school together.

The other restaurant in the “duo” is located in Vermont.

We had another special dinner in Denver at a place called Vesta. I had braised lamb shank on a hot pepper infused polenta. Delicious! The meat fell off the bone, as it should! Those yellow chips are deep fried garlic slivers — insanely good.

The place is known for its sauces, so we started with a selection. The most popular was the hot pepper, horseradish a strong second.

I’ll leave you with “crack bacon.” I misread the menu at the breakfast joint “Syrup” and thought the dish was “cracked bacon” (as in crispy). Oh no. The strips were sautéed in brown sugar. Caramelized. They meant “crack” as in instantly addictive!

The phone is ringing and it’s not my sister. If you’re tired of her and my relationship, consider this post done!

My sister got very anxious whenever I left town — amped up worry informed mostly by abandonment issues and imagined travel mishaps. She never could keep straight the dates, so for weeks ahead of time, I would have to keep reiterating the plan. It got annoying. It didn’t help to write it on her calendar because usually her calendars went missing.

My sister magnanimously deemed my time away as vacation from her, partly because she knew I needed a little separation and partly because she kept forgetting about cell phones. Even so, to her utter amazement and gratitude, I’d generally check in at least once while away.

Obviously, this trip there was none of that. And no quick call immediately upon arrival home to quell her anxious misery. I missed that a little because her intense relief at my being back was a form of welcome.

On the other hand, there’s the relief: no need to scramble and rush up to the North Shore for a visit during the very same days when I need to settle back into being home. The car engine smelled like burning rubber or oil today while out for groceries. Instead of irritation I felt only gratitude — it wasn’t happening en route to Salem! I wasn’t gonna have to juggle car repair and a trip to Salem! I was headed home, where I would stay for the rest of the day!

It’s been two months and a week since she died — a fact I find amazing.

Omelets and character

“The way you make an omelet reveals your character.” – Anthony Bourdain

I make a decent omelet with a fair amount of finesse. So I can’t be all bad, right?

Pork sirloin w/ red onion relish & crispy bacon

I had some unbelievably good food in Italy and it turns out that I missed cooking. The restless way I felt at around dinner-prep-time was my clue.

Local greens and “burnt finger” lamb*

This morning, I took advantage of being on Europe time and went to the grocery store early. At 6:20, the place was gloriously empty!

Once home, I put up a batch of bone broth and made a delicious mushroom, cheese and scallion omelet. Yeah!

*”burnt finger lamb” so named because you won’t want to wait to pick it up.

Sometimes joy is simple

Driving home from Salem, I assembled the ingredients in my mind: basil on the window sill, garlic in the bowl on the counter, Parmesan in the cheese drawer, pine nuts in the pantry.

Pesto? Really? There may be a foot of snow on the ground, but — yes — I just made and devoured a heavenly bowl of pasta with pesto. Since this dish usually appears on my table in the hot months and almost always with some element of planning, I felt a little surprise in its coming together. Joy, even.

It’s possible that a new status quo is emerging in Salem, though it’s a little hard to tell. Today, my sister was alert and clear thinking, with one exception.

“Will you be taking the Berkshire spur home?” she wanted to know.

No, I told her. Route 128 all the way.

For some reason she thought we were in Western Mass.

PS I do know not to house fruits and vegetables in the same container. I think K must have put the onions in the fruit bowl.

Korean BBQ, Los Angeles

If it had been pouring rain, I’d have thought this Korean BBQ restaurant, Quarters, a scene straight out of Blade Runner. This was LA, after all.

A dark and moody atmosphere with thudding, loud music. Grills inset into the tables, billowing with savory clouds of smoke. Waiters in black showed off mad skills with tongs and scissors. The meat just kept coming!

Small plates offered up greens, sprouts, scallion pancakes, pickled veggies, and all manner of hot sauces. It was exotic and delicious.

This was September, 2018. I guess I’m still catching up with myself. This might have been my favorite dining experience while traveling last year, although the taco truck a few blocks away was a close second. And the place at the base of Mt. Hood was really good, too.

The taco truck had a line that snaked through the lot out onto the street. The good ones always do. A lot of humanity there: the mother holding a vomiting baby, a dog licking up the puke, earning him a kick from a four year old (wonder where he learned that), a lanky, tall guy begging up and down the line. It was a well-practiced spiel. You kind of had to respect that. He worked at the church just over there. No, he wasn’t a user. He wasn’t begging, in fact. Okay, sure.

I abandoned the line to go over and watch the pork carver — a young man skilled with a knife. I loved to watch him flip pineapple chips into the open taco waiting in his other hand. Such precision! Such drama! Poor K was left in line, the lanky guy continuing on without missing a beat. Like I said, admirable. We ended up giving him and a few other homeless men money that trip, but it felt useless, maybe? They were everywhere. Chapped feet. Carts with sleeping bags. Those haunted faces. A problem so much bigger than emptying one’s wallet on a Saturday night.

This was nothing, my son told us. We oughta see ‘tent city.’ Blocks and blocks of the homeless. Like a refugee camp.

Instead, we went to one of the most interesting and beautiful monuments to wealth on the planet — the Getty Museum. One of Getty’s admirable legacies? Admission is free.

Five months is a long time, sometimes. This five months was. The ongoing onslaught of news, turning weeks into months and months into years. My sister’s decline. D’s success with EMT training. A break up.

And it just. Keeps. Coming.

Today, Barr will be appointed AG. Already dipshit in chief has offered his quid (or is it his quo?) — a position on the WH legal team for Barr’s son-in-law and a position in Treasury for Barr’s daughter.

No wonder a nice meal ranks high on the list of good experiences these days!

 

Pix and captions Thursday

After run to SSA in Waltham, stopped at Russo’s — grocery extraordinaire (and cheap). It was me and the Sicilian widows and old Chinese ladies.

Love me some baby bok choy and black rice.

Still no spare key!

For some reason, lately I’m wanting to turn bits of patchwork into pouches.

Fucking hilarious. On Netflix.

The road today. Some puddles hiding sheets of ice.

Cold Weather Salads

In the colder weather, we want sturdier, starchier foods. The craving applies to salads, too. This selection of ‘cold weather salads’ relies on typical pantry items, which means with a well-stocked larder you can make most of them with little or no planning.
Nothing like toothsome barley to satisfy the need for something deliciously starchy! Add some chic peas, diced red onion, chopped green olives and orange pepper, toss with parsley and a vinaigrette and you’ve got yourself a Company Worthy salad! Unlike many others, this holds for days in the fridge.

IMG_6942Dress up red leaf with some deli-style olives and artichoke hearts out of the can. Yum! While I generally prefer white or rice vinegar, a balsamic vinegar adds to the visual sense of a dark and hearty mixture.

IMG_6951IMG_6953Sunflower seeds and cannellini beans, both readily kept on hand, dress up any salad — here find them nicely partnered with spinach and red cabbage.

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IMG_7289Hearts of palm and again, sunflower seeds, turn an otherwise pedestrian salad into something a little special. Scallions and radish add pizzazz. The dressing here is Marie’s Lite Blue Cheese mixed with lemon and garlic. It’s the only store bought dressing I ever use. If you’ve a brand you really like, let me know! Generally, I find that little compares with homemade mustard/garlic vinaigrette.
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IMG_7506This salad combines radicchio, sunflower seeds, chic peas and carrot ribbons with bitter greens. In the cold weather, it’s nice to have pops of color on our plates and even though we associate bitter greens with spring, they’re available all year ’round. Partner with a sweet potato for a light, mid-week meal.
IMG_7545  IMG_7548Roasted beets of any color constitute a real treat in my book. Wrap them in foil, throw ’em in a medium oven for an hour, use the foil to scrape away the skin and voila! — you have a tender, sweet vegetable that really needs no adornment. Here, I’ve mixed yellow beets with canned white beans, olives and lots of pepper prior to dressing with a vinaigrette.

IMG_7554If my friend Elizabeth ever produces another batch of this exquisite oil, I’ll let you know. It’s delicious on salads and good for direct application to hair and skin, too.

IMG_7555IMG_7558Escarole, mung bean sprouts, and radishes. Not sure why this salad made it into the ‘cool weather file,’ but I’d eat it this late November week for sure. IMG_7595IMG_7600

Chicken Waldorf Salad is special any time of year, but in November it’s particularly satisfying. I’ve skipped the greens and the grapes and added wild rice. Walnuts are a must, as are celery and some kind of onion. I didn’t do so here, but roasting the nuts briefly in a saute pan brings out their flavor. This is a wonderful use of leftover chicken.