We’ve made a lot of good things in the past week, but I was more focused on eating and drinking than photographing and writing. However, there are so many discoveries that I want to share with you that I’ve pulled together some of the highlights here. If there is any common theme in all this, it’s about excursions into fine and unusual ingredients from sources who really care about quality and taste.
- Celeriac — I finally found a beautiful celery root and know now how to prepare
- Beets — which combine beautifully with celeriac, remoulade and sorrel
- Pasta and Polenta — always satisfying, and with yet more great sauces
- Beans and Greens — pairing Controne beans with bitter greens
- Cauliflower — an orange variety, thinly sliced and grilled a la Plancha
- Lentil and Escarole Soup — from Italicious, one of my favorite food blogs
- astonishing new wines — and a new wine store for me!
The start of this journey was the farmer’s market last Sunday in West Acton. I’ve tried celeriac several times before, but the root is so gnarly and ugly (and tough!) that I never found it appealing. This time I saw a very clean-looking, not too large celery root from Applefield Farm in Stow, so I bought it. A couple of days later I went to my reference book for uncommon vegetables, Elizabeth Schneider’s book. Using a very good mandolin configured for fine julienne pieces, I grated about a cup or two of the celeriac. Her recipe for Remoulade is simple, but I made it without any sour cream — even simpler:
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice, 2-3 Tbs. olive oil
Mix the sauce with the julienned celery root, and let it rest in the refrigerator for several hours. Cut up some cooked beets into small wedges, place on Boston lettuce leaves, top with the marinated celery root and pecan pieces, add a little vinaigrette, and serve.
Barbara had the main course that night. She made a great little pasta with Farfalle, tomato sauce, Cavolo Nero and pitted Kalamata olives.
Over the next several days, I made another batch of the Controne white beans and tried a number of combinations with them. The following Sunday I was able to get a bunch of my favorite bitter greens: chicory, mustard greens, and broccoli rabe, along with some pretty Swiss Chard for Barbara, who is not a fan of bitter flavors. When our good friend, Chris, an owner of a terrific fish store near us for many years, came over for dinner on Monday night, I made several dishes, including Polenta Cakes with Wild Greens, and Calamari with Beans and Maras Pepper.
We had two wines: 2010 Il Trovador, a 50/50 Syrah/ Carignan blend from Villa Creek, and a marvelous, silky Aglianico — a 2004 Perillo Taurasi Riserva — another one of Jan D’Amore’s superb portfolio and my first introduction to that producer.
The exploration continued again on Wednesday, when I went in search of La Gramière, a boutique Grenache-based wine from Amy Lillard & Matthew Kling, a young couple living their dream and making amazing natural, organic wines on a very small plot in the Southern Rhône valley. My wine store in Brooklyn carries it, and I ordered a couple of bottles to put aside for me, but I was anxious to try it before I go to NY sometime before year-end. A bit of research showed that Oz Wines distributes the wine in Massachusetts — a tribute to Andrew Bishop’s good taste and insight — so I wrote to Andrew for a local source, and he pointed me to Social Wines in South Boston.
To my great delight I found a wonderful selection of over 500 wines — many from small growers and made of unusual grapes, my favorite combination — and on top of that, the staff was superb and parking was easy! I was unprepared for such good fortune, but I took full advantage of it, and bought a mixed case of the idiosyncratic wines I prefer.
That night, my friend Steve and I went out to dinner at a tapas restaurant we had not tried, but has great reviews: Toro in Boston. The food was very good, as was the service. We had seven dishes:
- Padron peppers
- Patas Bravas with aioli (a little short on garlic)
- Cauliflower a la Plancha with Raisins and Pine Nuts
- Sweetbreads (that was for Steve)
- Pan con Tomate
- Tuna Tartare (again Steve)
- Escalivada Catalana
and glasses of a couple of Spanish wines. We enjoyed the meal, but even though it was early on a Wednesday night, the sound level was intolerable and the room was very dark. (I shouldn’t need to use the flashlight app on my iPhone to read the menu or to see what the dish looks like.) Needless to say, we took no pictures. That night I found a New Yorker cartoon that captured the essence of the experience:
Last night I tried to replicate the Cauliflower a la Plancha for dinner, and I served it with roasted brussels sprouts, sliced beets also a la Plancha, chopped scallions, and Volcano brown rice. It was the opportunity to try La Gramière, and it was delicious.
Our final set of discoveries for this post was tonight’s dinner of Lentil and Escarole Soup, served with some toasted bread, olive oil and spices, and a new wine from Social Wines — a 2012 Bruna Bansìgu. I actually had the wine for lunch as well, with two pieces of bruschetta from my own whole grain bread, topped with Kalamata tapenade, thinly-sliced sorrel, and a dollop of a roasted pepper purée I had made on Sunday. The wine turned out to be a real winner! It is from Liguria (not a bad match for the elements of the soup), is made from mostly Garnaccia, with a smattering of Rossesse, Barbera, and unnamed other grapes. It was delicious –reminiscent of cherries, currants, and undertones of cocoa. Definitely a wine to repeat.