Simple March Lunch — Shishito Peppers with Miso Sauce and Sour Beer

I bought some Shishito Peppers last Wednesday and fried a few for an appetizer two days ago.  They were so hot, I could not eat them.  Since that’s normally not the case with these, I tried again today, but with a new recipe to head off the extra heat.  That recipe, from Food & Wine’s website, called for cooking the peppers in the usual way (plus some chopped ginger) and then serving them with a little sauce made with miso paste and sake.  I did my own version, with yellow miso and Uncle Val’s gin, about 1.5 tablespoons of each.

For company on the plate, I sautéed some leftover Rancho Gordo Vallarta beans, then toasted a slice of Tuscan pane, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with Barbara’s homemade hummus and a Tuscan Kale Pesto from Ritrovo.

It seemed to me that a sour beer would go well with this mélange, and might even temper the heat if I encountered it again with the peppers.  The choice was Gueuze Tilquin from Belgium, which I had enjoyed previously.  It was delicious, healthy, and vegan.

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More March Meals — Spaghetti and Count Neck Clams

Wednesday night Barbara was out, and I came home in the evening from class.  That afternoon, I had read the email from my fish supplier (Quarterdeck Seafoods in Maynard) that said they had “Count Neck Clams”.  I looked this variety up online and found that they are a very small, hard-shelled clam from Maine, so I stopped on the way home to get some for dinner.  Spaghetti and clam sauce is one of my favorites, when I am on the “Almost” side of Almost-Vegan.

Recipe is virtually foolproof, although this time I added two unusual ingredients: Flowering Chinese chives and Lobster Mushrooms.  I still had a small package of these meaty mushrooms in dried form, so I decided to add them to the dish:

  • soak dried mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes
  • bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta
  • when water boils, add salt, bring to a boil again, and then add spaghetti (I use 120 grams for myself, enough for a little leftover snack the next day).
  • sauté chopped green or regular garlic in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, preferably Portuguese, such as Cabeço das Nogueiras
  • add chopped scallions, or in my case, flowering Chinese chives
  • remove the mushrooms from the water, and chop coarsely, then add to the pan
  • add the clams and cover over moderate heat, so they start to steam in their own juices
  • after 3-5 minutes, add 1/2 cup of white wine, and cover
  • if the clams have not started to open in a few minutes, add a little more wine
  • use a pair of tongs to remove the clams to a bowl as they open; they will be tough if you leave them in the pan until the last one is open
  • drain the pasta when just al dente, reserving a cup of the hot pasta water
  • put the spaghetti in the sauté pan, pull the top shell off each clam and discard, and place the bottom shell and its meat into the sauté pan.
  • add 1/2 cup of the pasta water, mix all together, and heat over a medium flame for a minute or two so that the pasta is just the right texture.  Add a little more pasta water if needed.
  • Add sea salt (only if needed), freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil
  • serve in a big bowl
  • open a bottle of Casa Do Valle, 2013 Vinho Verde from Portugal (delicious, great value)
  • call Chris (owner of Quarterdeck and my friend for over 30 years) and tell him how much you enjoyed it

clamshells Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset spaghetti and clam sauce with Lobster mushrooms in bowl spaghetti and clam sauce with Lobster mushrooms in bowl-2 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset


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More March Meals — Roasting Again!

The good news this month is that — after suffering a broken hinge that disabled the oven for more than a week, the range finally got fixed.  Which means that the culinary response to all this cold, crappy March weather is available again — i.e. Roasting!

The first application of this remedy included roasted peppers, eggplants, mushrooms, and pineapple slices.  The peppers were peeled and sliced, and they were layered with slices of the eggplant, drizzled with olive oil, and left for a day or two to blend flavors.

I grilled four small blocks of pressed tofu (marinated in oil and vinegar first), then topped them with roasted portobello slices.  Barbara had roasted pineapple slices two days earlier, because the snow was too deep to get to the grill.  For this meal I took the roasted slices out of the refrigerator, brushed them with olive oil, and then grilled them.  For color, I placed a cherry tomato in the center of the pineapples slices, where the core had been.  Next, I took my favorite little French copper casserole, cut up a few peeled potatoes, and added them to the pot along with flowering chives and two small whole onions.  Olive oil, salt and pepper, and a 425º oven did the rest.  The final accompaniment was wilted baby spinach with roasted (of course) baby Shiitake mushrooms.

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Not all my meals are perfect.  The Portobellos were overcooked when I put them back in the oven to warm up, and the pineapple slices weren’t that good in flavor or texture.  But the colors were exciting.

The wine was one I found recently at Social Wines, 2012 Cardamone Costa d’Amalfi by Reale.  The wine is deep purple and richly-flavored, 80% Piedirosso and 20% Tintore, imported by Nick Mucci in Boston.  I bought a case of it after the first time I had some.


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March Meals

As often happens, I am eating, drinking, and working much more often than I am blogging.  Tonight I play catch-up a bit.

March has been a flurry of snowplowing, teaching, and good food and wine.  I won’t be precise on dates or ingredients (because I don’t have the details), but you should get the “flavor” of it all.

One huge benefit of all this snow is that I can scoop a pile of it into a dish or bowl and plop some freshly-shucked oysters on top at any time.  Here are some Cape oysters (only the shells remain), and a glass of Minutolo, a delicious Jan D’Amore Polvanera Fiano from Puglia.

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This was shortly after a Farro Spinach Cannellini soup, with grilled bread and Halloumi cheese, and a lovely Valtellina from my friend, Alice Feiring.

Farro Spinach Cannellini Zuppa Halloumi in pan Sassella Riserva 2006

Another soup (this is cruel, cold March after all) was a delicious vegetable soup with fresh artichoke hearts, green beans, carrots, celery, and onions, and one of my favorite little pastas for soup — Grattoni, from Rustichella d’Abruzzo.

preparing soup 1 add grattoni simmer soup Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The wine was a real revelation, Donna Grazia, a vino bianco imported from Sicily by Nick Mucci.  What is fascinating is that it is made from two red grapes, Frappato and Nero d’Avola, and I found it to be totally charming, rich, balanced and with just the right amount of acidity.

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Then, on Friday night, we joined our friend Steve to celebrate his birthday.  We did it at Bondir, a superb restaurant in Cambridge.  I can’t possibly list all of the dishes and ingredients that night, but here are some of them:

  • salmon tartare with beets
  • salad of fresh chicories
  • Romanesco cauliflower, roasted beets, burdock root granita
  • Artichoke barigoule with trumpet mushrooms
  • Teff polenta, with vegetable stock, carrots, split peas, parsnips
  • vanilla-poached rhubarb with preserved strawberries, coconut milk, and powdered cocoa beans
  • and one touch I almost forgot: two different fresh breads from the kitchen, one of which was a “seafood” sourdough, made with dried shrimps, seaweed and squid ink.  It was so good, I asked for two extra pieces to take home, for toast with tapenade.

Bondir Salmon Tartare Bondir Chicories Bondir Romanesco Bondir Barigoule and Trumpet Mushrooms Bondir not sure

One glass of Baal Fiano, followed by a 2002 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja kept me very happy with the meal.

Two nights ago I made a variation of Pasta alla Norma (back to Sicily for the night).  It was an adaptation of Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Sicily recipe, made with a whole grain Reginetti from my pasta stash.  It was quite good, and simple to prepare.  The next day I decided to jazz up the leftovers with some chopped large green olives from Puglia (not to Barbara’s taste, so this was MY lunch), and it worked out very well.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Reginetti closeup Pugliese olives and oil

The wine was a Sicilian red, Benanti Rossodiverzella from Etna, quite good.

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Finally, today’s entry was a lunch based on two excellent salad leftovers from Barbara’s dinner last night: (1) mango, black bean, celery and pea greens, and (2) cole slaw.  To these I added my favorite pickled veggies of the month: homemade pickled beets, Greek peppers, Spanish (Basque) Piparras peppers, cannellini beans cooked that morning, chopped Kalamata olives, and finely-chopped red onion.  These were tossed together into a chopped salad, and served with another Mucci Import, a 2012 Pignoletto.  I also needed a little additional protein, so I toasted my multigrain bread, topped it with Spanish tapenade, and added a roasted red pepper from the midday cooking.  Lovely.

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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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