A La Plancha

If you ever have the desire to make a vegetarian/vegan pasta dish with meaty flavor and texture, worthy of a good red wine, you might try the pasta dish I made for dinner tonight:  Gigli with King Trumpet and Oyster Mushrooms Grilled a la Plancha.

First a little terminology: a La Plancha, Spanish, for grilled on a metal plate.  Next Gigli, a pasta in the shape of a bellflower, in this case, from Naples, and organic.  Also known as Campanelle, it is delicious with a variety of sauces.

Last week I was shopping at Russo’s — always a treat.  I was able to find 0.57 lbs. of gorgeous Oyster Mushrooms and 1/2 lb. package of King Trumpets, for a grand total of a little over $6.  Tonight I had no idea what to make for dinner, so I finally decided to grill the mushrooms on a cast aluminum griddle, heated at very high temperatures on my gas grill.  The King Trumpets were sliced in half or thirds, depending on thickness, and tossed with olive oil, sea salt (Slovenian), pepper, and Pimenton.  When those were well-browned on both sides, I did the same with slices of the Oyster Mushrooms, omitting the Pimenton but adding Garlic Granules. Finally, I cut two thick slices of a Vidalia Onion, and grilled those on each side until tender.  The onion was chopped up and added to the pasta, mushrooms, more olive oil and salt, and a little of the pasta water.

This was topped with some good grated Pecorino (not Romano)  served with a 2011 Barbera d’Asti by Michelle Chiarlo, and indeed, the flavors were rich enough to go with a good Brunello or Morellino di Scansano as well.


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Additional Springtime Discoveries

Here are some additional meals this Spring.  New combinations abound and provided great pleasure.

Spaghetti with Colatura, Cherry Tomatoes and Haricots Verts

La Valle cherry tomatoes can pasta in the dish with green beans-2 Harlots & Ruffians

Catalan Eggplant and Peppers; Roasted Potatoes with Onions and Flowering Chives;  Spinach and Baby Shiitakes

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New Vegetable Cookbook gave us some fine new dishes:

fatoush – Greek salad

parsley salad

parsley salad

potato bean pasta leek soup

Rocco di Carpeneto – outstanding Cortese

Grilled Vegetables, Open-Faced Sandwiches, and Cremant du Jura

grilled open-faced, roasted dinner plate

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Various June Culinary Delights

June was a cornucopia of food pleasures.  The farmers markets were in full-swing, so fresh vegetables were plentiful and attractive.  Here is a sampling of the goodies.


A smooth, savory nut cheese — pure vegan and delicious


Scallion nut cheese on steamed beets and salad


Baked casserole of various summer squashes, with bread crumbs and feta cheese

red leaf

red-leaf lettuce salad

radishes with sea salt

radishes with sea salt

eggplant primo

eggplant and tomato antipasto

Damijan Ribolla Gialla-2

outstanding orange wine from Friuli — Ribolla Gialla

dinner table with Refosco

dinner with Refosco from Friuli

smoked salmon and beets for lunch-2

smoked salmon and beets for lunch — on homemade multigrain bread with roasted peppers and seaweed salad

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Museum of Science, and Yu Choi Stir Fry

Now there‘s a catchy title.  Last week my daughter had a beauty salon appointment in the city, which provided a great opportunity for me to take my grandsons to the Museum of Science.  We could spend three productive hours there, give her some time off, and I could play grandpa for awhile.  That all worked well, as you can see below.


Here’s the Yu Choi part.  Having completed my grandfatherly duties successfully, I decided to make myself dinner featuring a beautiful bunch of Yu Choi from the Asian gardeners in nearby Lancaster, MA.  I had purchased it on Sunday at the West Acton Farmer’s Market.

The dish was my own invention, a stir fry with King Trumpet mushrooms (very meaty in texture and flavor), onions, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil, and of course, the greens, which were quickly blanched first.  My wok did its thing as designed, and I served it with brown basmati rice and a sour Belgian beer.  Life is good.

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Online Again: the past four months…..backward

My apologies for the extended absence.  I have no good excuse, just a combination of busy, lazy, traveling, and lethargy.  I still love cooking, eating, drinking wine, and traveling, so these next several posts will catch up with some highlights, beginning with tonight’s solo dinner.  I’ve been collecting a variety of outstanding ingredients recently, and I wanted to put together a meal with some of the best.  It could not be more international.

The first unusual ingredient is Callaloo (or Calaloo).  This is both an dish and a vegetable green plant, common in the Caribbean.  I first encountered it at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York several years ago, and this week I found a great package of fresh greens at Russo’s.  At $2.49 per pound, it was irresistible.

Next I texted my friend, Jan, who first told me about this vegetable.  His girlfriend is from Jamaica, Jan is from Rome, so his recipe has some of the best of both cultures.  He suggested sautéeing the greens with onions, garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes.  After consulting the web where I found a similar recipe with more Caribbean overtones, I followed Jan’s advice, adding only 1/2 of a jalapeño pepper.  Perfetto!


Next, I still had some dried Santorini Fava beans (actually a kind of split yellow peas) from last Spring, so I made a pot of those for a side dish.  Finally, I have recently been feeling the need for small amounts of seafood, so I took a half pound swordfish steak, sliced in horizontally, and then pan-grilled the steaks, adding fresh lemon juice and Spanish capers.


Here is the dinner plate:


To add to this culinary Trifecta — Calllaloo (Jamaica), Swordfish (Sicily), Favas (Greece) — I decide the wine match naturally had to be Corsican.  I selected the remaining contents in a bottle of 2014 Domaine Petroni rosé, left over from a dinner recently.  Absolutely stunning.  More backwards history is coming soon.


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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

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