Food

Reflections in a rib eye.

Three Pasta Variations

2010.03.03
By

ANN LIKES FETTUCINI, I LIKE angel hair. We compromise, but where she tosses hers with broccoli and cheese I prefer a more piquant accompanage. For the last two nights (and, at this writing and G?d willing, tonight), my preference has been/is to begin with a base of olive oil and garlic. (The secret is to introduce these two with the skill of a shadchan, allowing each to express its inmost soul for at least 10 minutes over low-to-medium heat, rather than frying them to the tarry crisp of the dilletante.) Use whatever amount you like; I usually eyeball about a tablespoon and a half of oil to five or six roughly chopped cloves.) To this I add, respectively:

Pasta Number One

- Five mushrooms, sliced in fours
- Half a tin of anchovies, with the oil
- 2 tsp. nonpareil capers
- Can tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Grated cheese (I like shredded Parmesan)

Fry the mushrooms before lowering the heat and adding the garlic and anchovies. Once the kitchen smells nice, add the tomatoes and increase heat to maximum, letting it reduce. Add capers, salt and pepper. Toss with pasta and cheese and serve.

Pasta Number Two

- The other half of the anchovy tin, without a lot of oil
- Dried rosemary and thyme (about a tsp. of each)
- Cherry (or other small) tomatoes sliced in half
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Grated cheese (I also enjoy grated Romano)

Warm the herbs in the oil before adding the garlic and anchovies. About one (1) minute before serving, add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Toss with pasta and cheese and serve.

Pasta Number Three

- Half a tin of anchovies, with the oil
- 2 tsp. nonpareil capers
- Cherry (or other small) tomatoes sliced in half
- Pepper to taste
- Grated cheese (I think we’re out of Romano, though)

Whizz together in a food processor the anchovies and garlic with enough oil to make it more runny than pastey. Warm in a pan over low-to-medium heat until kitchen smells heavenly. About a (one) minute before serving, add tomatoes and capers, pepper. Toss with pasta, top with cheese, and serve.
FOLO: Actually, all I did was toss all ingredients with the pasta. As expected, it turned this into a mouthwateringattheveryMEMORYofit oh my. But heating it might have been nice too.

SHOP SONOMA: Best cheese in this neck of the woods is Vella Cheese. Ig Vella and his family are old Sonoma hands; when you taste his cheese, you’re tasting Sonoma Valley. (Endorsements unsolicited but sincere.)

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The Brotherhood of the Dunk

2010.01.25
By

YOU SEE THEM CASTING FURTIVE kitchenward gazes after a good dinner of roasted chicken or perhaps beef or lamb, excusing themselves with a piece of bread and trying not to run. Shortly afterward, stifled sighs waft back to the dining room.

Did I say “them?” I mean we. The Brotherhood of the Dunk.

The Brotherhood is a fine example of what ethnologists call Mystery Schools. These institutions, which flourished in Greece and Egypt at appropriate times in their country’s histories, were religious cults whose worship was based on an initiate’s experience of something — something wordless and immediate, so all-encompassing and clarifying that it couldn’t be shared unless, perhaps, through the eye-spark of mutual recognition.

For in truth, no words can truly substitute for the experience of dipping a piece of crusted bread into warm rendered golden animal fat, swiping up the pan-cracklings and biting into the result. The tang of drippings-soaked bread caresses your nostrils; the smooth liquescence balances and softens the dry crunch; the mouthfilling chorus of bitter sour salty sweet; the elusive fifth flavor whose harmonies transform the products of baker’s oven and roasting pan into something akin to what the angels, if they exist, must eat. (And if they don’t exist, then there’s more for the rest of us.)

Great care must be taken with this art, whose practitioners flavor it according to personal taste: some dunk only the inner, soft parts of the bread. Others use the crust to dislodge from the bottom of the pan toothsome chunks of blackened goodness. Still others will the soft side face down like a sponge, gingerly plucking at the rapidly softening crust and trying not to get their fingers too greasy. (Good luck.)

It is said that a man may be known by his dunkings, but I have seen little evidence to support this; some of the most otherwise timid souls I know dunk with a gusto and joie-de-vivre rivaled only by Paul Bunyan at a flapjack bar. Nevertheless, if a man tells you that you can find God in a piece of bread, don’t believe him — dunk for yourself.

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Modern Manners, Economywise

2009.11.16
By

IF THE PERSON AHEAD OF you in the checkout line is stocking up on Meow Mix, don’t ask about their cat.

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Interruption, With Muffins

2009.07.09
By

THIS IS TO EVERYONE WHO’S been wondering about my ongoing health in light of recent tests thereof. (If you’re not one of them, please read something else):

The good news: Nothing appears seriously wrong with my intestines or either surgical site.

The bad news: The symptoms remain — chronic abdominal pain radiating to my back, with occasional spasms; frequent nausea; movement limited to a couple of hours a day.

The good news: I’m being referred to a pain specialist this week.

The bad news: After eight months, two surgeries and a pile of tests, this isn’t exactly what we’d hoped to hear.

The good news: Strangely, but tentatively, it’s something of a relief to finally know something — even though negative or potentially negative. (For purposes of this discussion, “we don’t know” is negative — even though it’s definite.)

God only knows what’ll happen next, and while I wait to see what that is I am perfecting my muffin recipe (a la Betty Crocker‘s “Popular Muffins,” c. 1972):

Oven: 400 @ 25 minutes
Gear: 12 muffin cups
Mixing bowl
2c./1c./tsp. measures

Beat, then mix:
1 egg
1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil or applesauce
-
Add:
2 c. whole-wheat flour
OR 1 c. ww. flour
+1 c. bran/cornmeal/etc.
1/4 c. sugar or honey or brown sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
-
Stir until moistened, spoon equally into muffin cups.
Add fruit/nuts/anything else desired. (Local blueberries rock.)
Wait until fully cooled before peeling.

If nothing else comes of this … at least I learned how to bake.

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Dinner: Beef Carbonnade

2009.06.10
By

SONOMA‘S UNSEASONABLY COOL JUNE IS a good excuse to keep filling the kitchen with slow-cooked aromas. This one, I’m told, is something of a Belgian national dish, and if it isn’t it ought to be: when the wife first tasted it, she made a breathy rhyme for “slow truck.”

Beef Carbonnade

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons flour
3 pounds lean London Broil, cubed
1-1/2 cups beef stock
1 cup stout (I use Guinness)
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

- Saute onions and garlic in oil.
- Dredge beef in flour, add to pot, and brown evenly.
- Add beef stock and stout; simmer until beef is tender (about two hours under the lid should do it).
- Add molasses and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot over boiled new potatoes, and contemplate the goodness of Life’s little alchemies.

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Dinner: Inadvertent Hobbitry

2009.05.01
By

AS HOBBITS AND THOSE WHO love them know, nothing makes a meal like a heap o’ mushrooms. Around here, that usually means skilleted with garlic, onions, tomatoes and a big sausage and lovingly ladled atop fettucine or capellini. But last night, I forwent both garlic and pasta for a little something I call the Inadvertent Hobbit (serves 2):

- Two big Italian turkey sausages (sweet, unless you like spicy)
- Four slices turkey bacon, diced
- Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
- 12 crimini mushrooms, quartered
- Olive oil
- Sherry
- Pinch of rosemary, thyme, basil, salt

Brown sausage on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add enough olive oil to brown the bacon and turn the onions translucent, then do that too. Add herbs to taste (I use a smaller pinch of rosemary than of basil and thyme). Deglaze with sherry and add mushrooms. Revel in the homey aroma, then cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Line two rustic-looking dishes with the non-sausage ingredients and put the sausage on top. Contemplate life’s simple pleasures, and enjoy.

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