Vegetarian Times Dinner, Anchovy (B-12) Pasta Lunch

The snow is abating somewhat, so that means more time for culinary and professional pursuits.  Barbara had an inspired night two days ago, based on reading the March issue of the Vegetarian Times, I taught class last night (so no cooking — mediocre catered supper), and I had fun with lunch today, so those will be my posts.

Her interpretation of the Vegetarian Times recipes was very exciting.  While I was finishing grading papers, she prepared two dishes.  One was a Roasted Apple, Miso & Tahini-Dressed Salad, the other, Roasted Cauliflower with a Lemony Brown Butter.

VT Apple & Miso VT Roasted Cauliflower roasted apple slices salad with miso tahini dressing Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Both dishes were terrific!

Today for lunch I went back to my simple Italian roots for a little vitamin B-12 therapy and my favorite not-quite-vegan savory flavors.  The dish was Bucatini with Anchovy, Rosemary, and Garlic:

  • half a branch of fresh rosemary, stripping the leaves off
  • 3 small garlic cloves
  • one salted anchovy, filleted and cleaned to two fillets
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh breadcrumbs
  • 140 g. Bucatini
  • salt, cracked pepper, olive oil

Chop finely the rosemary leaves, garlic, and anchovies, while the pasta cooks in salted water. Heat 2-3 Tbs. of olive oil in a sauté pan on low heat.  Add the chopped anchovies and herbs, coking slowly until the anchovies melt and the garlic is tender.  Add the bread crumbs and sauté until lightly browned.

When cooked al dente, drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Add Bucatini to the sauté pan, along with the pasta water, and heat until water is mostly evaporated and the sauce blends and coats the pasta.  Add more olive oil and crushed black pepper.  Serve in a monster pasta bowl, along with glasses of 2007 Collio Malvasia from Friuli.  If you have it, garnish the pasta with some roasted sweet peppers, marinated in olive oil and capers.  Buon appetito.

Bucatini with anchovies, rosemary and garlic Bucatini with anchovies, rosemary and garlic-cloeseup Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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Cauliflower and Many Vegetables Paella

Next to pasta, one of my favorite suppers is paella.  Fortunately, I am getting comfortable now with the methodology, so I can make it with whatever is available or suits my fancy.  Tonight’s version features half a head of cauliflower, with almost a dozen other vegetables.  As always, a good stock is an important part of the key to success with this dish.

The whole deal, preparation, cooking and serving was about an hour.  Most of it was spontaneous, ad hoc, but it came out fine.  After the fact, here is my recipe:

Cauliflower and Many Vegs Paella Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset paella closeup

The Calabrian Savuto from last night went very well with this dish, partly due to the pimenton — smoked paprika.

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Ribollita for Dealing with Heavy Snow

This is soup weather: bitter cold, windy, and a three-day snowstorm.  The antidote is a hearty, fortifying soup which will stick to your ribs and taste great.  I found one online the other day: Trattoria Mario’s Ribollita, from a small Florentine family restaurant.  The recipe and accompanying story were on the Divina Cucina blog.

Of course, we know that this simple soup takes about 3 days to make, but it really is easy.

  • Day 1: soak very good Italian white beans at least overnight, up to 24 hours
  • Day 2: cook the beans, then add to the vegetables and simmer into a soup.  Cool it, layering slices of stale bread on top, and refrigerate overnight; with a bit of forethought, I had sliced my remaining week-old seeded rye bread from BirchTree, and left it out on the counter to dry well for two days.
  • Day 3: heat the soup again, stirring it to enable the bread to fall apart into the soup, making the texture creamy and delicious

Mine was ready to eat last night, and it provided plenty leftover for lunch today and tomorrow.  Serve with a side of salad, and crostini, if you have some great crusty breads, as we did this weekend.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Painted in Waterlogue crostini & Negroni-2 yellow red and olive bread Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Last night I had my crostini with a Negroni on the rocks.  Today the choice was Odoardi’s Savuto from Calabria.  Sit and let it digest for 90 minutes, then go out and snowplow another 15″ of the white stuff from the driveway.  Salut!

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BirchTree Bread Co., Vegetarian Torta, and More Roasted Peppers

Today we had a brief respite from the snow, so I decided to drive to Worcester (about 30 minutes) to check out the BirchTree Bread Co.  I already tried two of their breads with my purchases the last two times at the Saturday Cambridge Winter Farmers Market, so I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.

Arriving at about 11 AM, the place was just starting to get busy, but I was able to introduce myself to the baker/owner, Robert Fecteau, and found him to be a genuine and knowledgeable guy.  The bakery/cafe is spacious and full of tasty things made there.  I went home with one country loaf (which they make daily) and one olive herb bread (just on Fridays), along with a pint of their house-made peanut butter, all very good.  Before I left, I tried a double espresso, which was delicious.

BirchTree proprietor, Rob

BirchTree proprietor, Rob

BirchTree Bread Co BirchTree menu board BirchTree seating area country loaf Painted in Waterlogue Painted in Waterlogue

After a series of shopping errands, I got home about 2 PM and was happy to have the olive bread with their peanut butter for lunch.  Finally, as a late night snack a few minutes ago, I toasted a slice of the olive bread, smeared Tofutti cream cheese on it, and then cut two thin slices of membrillo (Spanish quince paste) on top.  Accompanied by a small glass of Cinzano sweet vermouth on the rocks, it tasted just right.

Later in the afternoon and evening I cooked a large batch of Controne white beans for a Ribollita I plan to make tomorrow, and I roasted three sweet peppers and peeled and saved them in olive oil for weekend dining.

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At this point I wisely turned the kitchen over to Barbara, who conceived of and executed a superb vegetable torta.  She cooked spinach with garlic, boiled potatoes and carrots, mashed the potatoes and crushed the soft carrots, then seasoned them with lemon zest, and added a few more touches she’ll be glad to tell you about if you want to know.  Mixing the mashed potatoes with two eggs, a little butter and two thin slices of  Greek feta cheese, she took out a springform pan and dusted it with bread crumbs.

She assembled the torta in layers: mashed potatoes, spinach, potatoes, carrots, and finally potatoes and more bread crumbs on top.  Then it was baked in a 350º F. oven for about 50 minutes.  With the sides of the form removed, it was easy to slice into wedges and serve.  The results were outrageously good, worth two servings apiece, even after I had already eaten some leftover chopped salad as a first course.  For wine, I chose a Corsican wine I had bought a few years ago at Kermit Lynch’s store in Berkeley, a 2010 Patrimonio, from Yves Leccia, using 90% Niellucciu, 10% Grenache grapes.  An earthy, nicely-balanced wine.

torta full view torta closeup torta real close 2010 Patrimonio 2010 Patrimonio-2

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Salads in the Snow

I used to dislike salads.  In the 1940’s and 50’s, when I was growing up, salad was a pretty dull affair.  Iceberg lettuce was the norm (probably shipped by rail from California to New York), and if you were lucky, it was slathered with Thousand Island or Roquefort  dressing.  Cucumbers didn’t help.  I considered them to be water, in a solid form at room temperature, covered in a tough green wrapping, with no discernible flavor.

Fortunately, things have improved dramatically over the last 50-60 years, and today I get considerable vegan and vegetarian pleasure from great salad combinations.  The wonders of mesclun, a wide variety of young greens, many of them common in Asian cuisine, new choices in cucumbers, radishes, micro greens, multicolors of beets, olives and peppers in almost every food store — even in winter, salads can be fun, delicious, nourishing, and interesting.

Speaking of winter, we are off to a tough start.  Our area here in New England has already received about five FEET of snow in the past two weeks, all of it still on the ground.  

there's a stone wall there under snow cleared driveway, buried pizza oven late aft sun over snow

So tonight’s post is about meals during these snowy days — featuring my current favorites salads, legumes, grains, and wine — in the hours available for cooking and blogging between snowstorms and classes.  Incidentally, we got one of those five feet of snow this Monday, Groundhog Day.  Needless to say, Punxatawney Phil did not have much favorable to say about the remainder of the winter.  At least someone posted this little piece of insight on Facebook to lighten and brighten the day:

climate change and groundhog

Last Saturday I went again to the Farmers Market in Cambridge.  In spite of the weather I was able to come away with a fine loaf of seeded rye bread from BirchTree Bakery in Worcester; carrots, Choggia and Golden Beets, Celeriac, and Watermelon Radishes from Winter Moon Roots; four kinds of mushrooms from Rhode Island Mushroom Co.; and a couple of packages of superb micro greens from Silverbrook Farm in Dartmouth, MA, on the south coast.   These were combined with a bowl of linguine and fresh littleneck clams in a simple garlic, wine and olive oil sauce for my Sunday lunch.  Social Wines supplied the perfect wine to go with it all — 2010 Simčič Todor Belo, a Slovenian white wine made of Ribolla, Friulano, and Pinot Grigio grapes.  It is a full-flavored wine, but with plenty of acidity to go with the richness of the other dishes, all of which included a Portuguese olive oil I’ve been enjoying of late: Cabeço das Nogueiras.

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The last two photos were from lunch a day later.  The salad had diced beets, julienned watermelon radish, multiple micro greens, Italian white beans cooked that morning, diced red onion, fried cubes of Halloumi cheese (Atalanta brand), leftover romaine from the previous night’s salad, and a few wild Spanish mushrooms from a jar.

In addition I had made Celery Root Remoulade the day before, so that was on the salad plate, too.  The most mouth-filling part of that lunch was the Bruschetta, made with the rye bread toasted crisply, with a layer of Taggiasche olive paste on top, and then covered with home-roasted sweet orange and yellow peppers, peeled and marinated with olive oil, Ibiza sea salt, and capers we bought in Ostuni, Puglia, 2 years ago.  The wine was another white, Alter Ego, a Jan D’Amore wine from Occhipinti in Lazio.  What is unique about this lovely wine is that it is made from a red grape, Aleatico, vinified as a white wine.  In fact, I have had all three of their Aleatico wines, including a dry red and a sweet red dessert wine, too.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Painted in Waterlogue Painted in Waterlogue Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

After the meal I stopped in our greenhouse next to the living room to take a photo of the flowering cacti, adorned with a small porcelain bunny.  This shot (and two others in this post) was then rendered as a watercolor painting by an iPhone/iPad app I’ve had fun with for a few weeks, Waterlogue.

Painted in Waterlogue

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Miami Beach, Cuba, and then….Fregula Sarda at home

The break in my communications from January 6-14 was for an amazing trip to Cuba.  We went with a group from our synagogue on a cultural/religious mission in support of the remaining Jewish community there.  It was marvelous in many respects.  I’ll just touch on it briefly with some characteristic photos:

IMG_4130 IMG_4131 IMG_4570 DSC_2004 DSC_2002 DSC_2009 DSC_2045 DSC_2129 IMG_4589 IMG_4152 2015-01-12 10.41.43 HDR 2015-01-12 11.58.31 HDR Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset 2015-01-12 13.23.24 2015-01-13 07.21.36 DSC_2435

The people, the culture, the history and architecture, the music and art were all fascinating and enjoyable.  We are very hopeful that President Obama’s initiative to normalize relations with Cuba will be beneficial for our people in both countries.

A fringe benefit of the visit was the discovery of an outstanding pizza place in South Beach, Miami, where we had dinner the night before departing on our charter flight to Havana.  We found the place through TripAdvisor, which is remarkably accurate and up-to-date most of the time.  The name of the restaurant is unusual: Visa-o1 Extraordinary Pizza, and it is!  The name derives from a provision in our immigration laws that permits people with extraordinary skills to come into the U.S., i.e. the Visa-o1.  The creator, and possessor of those skills, is Renato Viola, master pizza chef.

The restaurant is a tiny little place (10 tables) in an unassuming office building in Miami Beach.  There is no sign outside, but a young woman stationed at the entrance will guide you into the place.  We had a superb salad, the best mushroom and cheese pizza I ever ate, and another creation, a Marco pizza, with arugula and stracciatella and parmesan cheese.  A couple of good glasses of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo completed the meal.

Visa O-1 entry-3 Visa O-1 salad

Visa O-1 mushroom pizza Visa O-1 mushroom pizza-2 Visa O-1 happy customer Visa O-1 Marco pizza visa01 pizza

Remaining vegan in Cuba was nearly impossible, so we did the best we could.   When we got home, I was eager to cook again.  Since Barbara had choir practice the first night back, I cooked just for me, and I made a pasta she won’t eat — Sardinian Fregula, also known as Fregole or Fregola.  I found a recipe I liked which I adjusted to include a Yukon Gold potato cut in small dice, about the size of the pasta, and I simmered it for 12 minutes before adding to the dish pictured below from the web:

Fregole recipe Fregola Sarda Pasta with Olives & Tomatoes

It came out remarkably good, and it matched beautifully with a 2013 Fiano from Villa Creek in Paso Robles, CA — a stunningly delicious version of a grape from Campania, of which only 130 cases were made.  I am re-ordering more immediately.

fregole in pan Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset fregole and fork Sarda Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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Lunch Yesterday, Dinner Tonight

As we prepare to leave for eight days in Cuba starting tomorrow, we are binging a bit on vegetables and salads, which may not be the healthiest things for us to eat there.  You will also notice a reprise of recent dishes we enjoyed.

Yesterday’s lunch featured one of the fresh beet salads of which I have become quite fond.  The key tool is this julienne device, purchased at a cookware store in Portsmouth, NH, several years ago:

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It makes a lovely small julienne of any vegetable with a little substance.  For yesterday’s  lunch, it was applied to one small raw beet and one medium carrot (from Crooked Row Fields), and one watermelon radish from the Cambridge Farmers Market on Saturday.  To that mix I added multiple micro-greens from the Union Square Greenmarket last week, chopped red onion, superb white beans from Italy, Turkish black olives and Sicilian Castelvetranos.  Barely worth mentioning is also a bit of chopped Roma tomato from the top and bottom left by Barbara from a recent sandwich.  This was dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette and served emblazoned in color.

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As you can see, it was served with a small portion of leftover Spice-Rubbed Lemon Sole with a Lemon-Parsley sauce (made with olive oil, not butter), and the Rosemary-Ciabatta crostini topped with the Romagnoli’s Caponata.  All was served with one of Alice Feiring’s latest selections, a 2010 Pecorino from Emidio Pepe.

spice-rubbed lemon sole with lemon-parsley sauce Spice-Rubbed sole Rosemary-Ciabatta crostini with Caponata Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Barbara did last night’s supper.  It was a very good meal of spinach fettuccine with mixed wild mushrooms, baby spinach, and pan-roasted tofu cubes.

Tonight it was my turn again.  I accommodated the request for polenta, preparing some and cooling it in an oiled ceramic dish, and baking it with tomato sauce and sliced mozzarella.  This was accompanied by a plate of hash browned potatoes, and pan-grilled zucchini slices with balsamic vinegar and a salad of wild arugula and chopped endive.  A few green olives and four thin slices of kick-ass pickled beet (lots of vinegar, salt and hot Thai chile peppers) completed the dish.

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There was no debating the wine for this dinner.  My choice was Terra Damia from Calabria (see previous post), already open, and it was superb.  I wish I had more of it.  Hopefully, I will rectify that situation soon.

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