Quick Culinary Excursion — Another Pasta Dish

Most often my daytime menu is driven by two forces in the kitchen:

  1. available ingredients
  2. desired cookware

Today’s Sunday lunch was a good example.  It started with a relatively new cast iron skillet I purchased recently from Food52 and was eager to try it out.  It was made by the Smithey Ironware Company of Charleston, SC, and it seems to be a fine example of American artisans at their best.

I’ve been cooking all weekend, so I was not desperate to use a bunch of items.  I did, however, have a nice, small Italian eggplant that warranted attention, and some leftover fennel, vegan sausage, and white beans I should use up.  Furthermore, it’s been DAYS since I had pasta, so the path was clear:

  • sautée cubes of eggplant until tender, then remove
  • sautée sliced onion, garlic and fennel together
  • add sausage slices and white beans to the pan, and cook until blended
  • add the eggplant back into pan, plus salt and pepper
  • boil a single portion of linguini (135 gm)
  • mix it all together with some pasta water, 1 tsp of whole-grained Dijon mustard, and grated Calabrian Pecorino
  • serve in a big pasta bowl.

As I surveyed the scene it felt much like a dish from northeastern Italy — almost to Austria, except there the sausage would be pork, and the vegetables would include cabbage.  Fortunately, I remembered that I had a bottle of 2009 Lagrein in the cellar, purchased locally from importer Jeannie Rogers (Adonna Imports) about 7 years ago.  It was a perfect match, and a great way to spend 1/2 hour in the Südtirol for lunch.

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Another Saturday Lunch, Three Weeks Ago

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you will know that on Saturday mornings when my wife is off doing other things, I have two major activities:

  • take the garbage out to the town facility
  • play with my food

Saturday, February 25th was no exception. The garbage went pretty smoothly including recycle (paper, glass, plastic) and take it or leave it. When I got home I did several things in the food category.

The first step was to take my week-old loaf of bread made with Triticale grain and to run it through the slicing machine so I had nice, even slices that enable me to save some for home, as well as take some with me on my trip Monday. Next, I decided to work with some of my vegetables. I had a radicchio di Treviso and chose to braise that slowly in a pot with olive oil, and later, a little bit of salt and pepper and white wine. Following that I took a zucchine, sliced it up, started with some chopped onions — cooked until tender — then added a chopped up piece of chanterelle mushroom, and cooked it for a while until lightly browned. Finally, I added the zucchini slices and some oregano, salt, and pepper

When the zucchini were mostly tender, I added some white wine (twice in small amounts) and let it braise slowly until it was a little brown and very tender. I toasted my bread (two slices), spread the toast with a purée of almond milk ricotta and chopped Spanish black olives, and then topped with broccoli micro greens and the chopped up cooked radicchio.

To the salad I added the one hard-boiled egg, cut in quarters lengthwise, and a few pieces of pickled beets and pickled jalapeno peppers. Served it all with a glass of Lamezia (Gaglioppo) from Calabria.

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Walking Down the Driveway in February

February in New England can be very cold, very warm, or a little of both.  Late last month, I walked down the driveway for the mail, and I was struck by the dramatic skies and scenery around me.

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Sometimes, we go out to eat…

While I’m posting today, I may as well relate a story about an excellent meal we had one night when we went out to eat locally — a relatively rare occasion.  Not only did we eat out, but we also BOTH had  cocktails.  I think that had not happened since 1978.

We went to Burton’s Grill in Westford, MA.  Barbara ordered the “Winter Citrus and Sage”, made with a designer vodka and tangerine syrup (see the listing below), and I had a “Green Tea Salty Dog”, with Bombay Sapphire Gin, fresh grapefruit juice and Himalayan pink sea salt.

Both drinks were superb. Dinner was simple; beet salad and side of french fries for her. and a spicy Thai Rice Bowl for me.  Very tasty, plus enough to take home for leftovers.

Finally, all of those taste treats were supplied with excellent service and a modest tab, which I was happy to pay, plus tip.

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World Class Leftovers?…. and Saturday Lunch

We are sometimes accused of having world-class leftovers in our fridge.  While there may be some truth in that, I can assure you that those leftovers — in their natural habitat — look anything but “world-class”.  For example, here are some leftover black beans, lentils in broth, white beans in broth, cooked toasted rye berries, and half of a purple daikon radish.  Hardly the stuff “dreams are made of”.  They were in the refrigerator this morning as I began to play around in the kitchen.

My first order of business was to make vegan sausage, just because I had some Vital Wheat Gluten and Nutritional Yeast, two components of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe which I had made once before.  It took about an hour to make the mix, steam the sausages, and chill them for use.  In the meantime, I had just read an article in the NY Times online about Gascony, and I was getting hungry.  Based on the article, I was in a duck fat, Southwestern France frame of mind, but also thinking vegan, so I started looking up recipes for what I could do with the unlikely combination of lentils, beans, sausage, and rye berries.  A few recipes caught my eye, but especially this one: Wheat Berry and Lentil Salad, so I adapted it to what I had, and the results were marvelous.

I sliced up one of the sausages and sautéed it in a cast iron skillet.  Serving the sausage with some whole-grained mustard, I ate the salad and sausage, while drinking a Villa Creek Willow Creek Cuvée GSM blend, and I was transported to Gascony — without any duck fat but with some of the flavors I imagined.

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Deep, Dark, Delicious — Bruschetta for Lunch

One of my go-to lunches this time of year is Bruschetta.  Simple, colorful, satisfying, and Vegan, this dish has all the basic food groups:

  • Vegetables (roasted red peppers, capers)
  • Grains (my homemade Seeded Rye Levain Bread)
  • Fruit (olives in Pate Nere from Puglia)
  • Nuts (Kite Hill Almond Milk Ricotta)
  • Chocolate (especially if you include some of Barbara’s Avocado Chocolate Mousse)
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Bruschetta on the plate

Lots of variations are possible, depending on what you like and what you have.  Here are the basic steps I used:

  • Bread.  I had baked two loaves of my seeded rye bread in December, eating one at the time and freezing the other. Two days ago I defrosted the second one, and today there was half the loaf left.  Toast, grill or pan-fry two slices of the bread; I fried mine with olive oil in a skillet.
  • Toppings.  The first layer was almond milk Ricotta, made more spreadable by mashing it with olive oil.  Next came the Pate Nere, right from the jar.  This one is just organic olives and oil — no capers, anchovies, parsley, or Cognac.  Finally, I had roasted some wonderful and inexpensive Israeli sweet red peppers from the market several days ago.   They had been peeled, sliced and marinating in oil and capers in the refrigerator since.  They were warmed up in the skillet after the bread was done, and slid on top of the other layers.  Notice the presence of organic olive oil in everything.  I believe it has contributed greatly to my health; it has had NO effect on my weight; and it’s responsible for the shimmering umami you see in the closeup photos, below.
  • Dessert.  I rarely do desserts, but this avocado mousse is outstanding.  And it is vegan.  The recipe is at the bottom of the posting.

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I chose not to drink wine at lunch.  I don’t want to fall asleep while grading papers this afternoon.  Almost any red wine will be perfect with this.

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just a little avocado chocolate mousse left

Chocolate Avocado Mousse Recipe

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Other January Highlights

The previous post began my attempt to play catch up with this month’s food and wine.  Here are a few more highlights, mostly visual.

Greek Islands — Briami Me Maratho

One of the stars is an easy baked vegetable dish from the island of Kea, in Greece.  The recipe, and the cookbook it comes from, are in the photos below.  It is marvelous the day it’s baked, and the versatile leftovers are even better the next day or two.

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The Foods of the Greek Islands

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Briami recipe

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out of the oven

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leftovers with toasted bread and olive pate, side of beets

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feta too

Soups

January is great for soups.  It’s one of the best ways to survice the biting New England winters.  Ligurian soups, whether almost all cabbage, or cabbage with a bunch of other vegetables and croutons, are delicious.  I made both.

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in the pot

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on the table

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Breads and Spreads, Clams and Pasta, Wines Galore

Country Italian breads are among my favorites, and I have several good suppliers for them.  We use them sliced and toasted, fried, or grilled.  Often they are topped with purées I make from grilled or roasted vegetables, such as sweet red peppers or eggplants.  For taste and texture, we add homemade white bean purée, black olive pate from Puglia (no capers or anchovies, just wonderful olives and the oil), and/or the almond milk ricotta, fluffed up with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

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grilled bread with olive pate, red pepper purée, and dehydrated onions

img_20170120_134852 img_20170120_134934 Here was a plate of Little Neck Clams, cooked with white wine and hot peppers, atop some leftover pasta noodles.

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clams and pasta

Wine and Flowers

The kitchen and dining room are always cheered up with the colors and aromas of good wine and fresh flowers.

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And One More — Poached, Grilled Spanish Octopus

Our friend Chris came last week for food and wine with us, and he was kind enough to bring some crabmeat (which Barbara made into crab cakes).  A few days later I stopped by his fish market, and he was preparing a small frozen Spanish octopus.  He offered me one of the legs, and I had great success following his guidance for cooking it.

The first step was making a Court Bouillon.  That was easy, once I decided which of Craig Claiborne’s versions I liked better, and of course, I consulted Julia Child on the topic as well.  After straining out the vegetables, I inserted a small wooden skewer inside the octopus leg, to keep it from curling up.  Then, it was poached in simmering liquid (Bouillon).  Chris had suggested about an hour, but it was rubbery at that point, so I kept going.  After a total of 90 minutes, it was just right.  The last step was letting it cool, removing the skewer, and tossing it with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Placed on a very hot gas grill for a few minutes on each side, it developed a lovely char.  Sliced, more olive oil, some squirts of lemon juice, and I had the real thing.  As good as any restaurant in my memory.

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slices of octopus from the grill

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served with chopped red onion, white beans, oil and vinegar, tomato wedges, and grilled bread with olive paste

Waterlogue 1.3.1 (72) Preset Style = Vibrant Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = None Format Border = Straight Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Auto Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Narrow Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

The artistic version Waterlogue 1.3.1 (72)

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