BUCATINI WITH RED AND GREEN TOMATOES

Bucatini with Red and Green Tomatoes-0374

 

Every pasta shape is lovable, if only it finds the right sauce.  But deep down inside, we know whom we love best.  For me it’s bucatini.  Bucatini is what spaghetti would be if it had a gym membership, and the will to pump iron until it got the girl.  I’d slurp up a bowl of bucatini slicked with WD40 just to experiences its chewy satisfactions.  While bucatini is no match for sauces that require crampons and carabiners to hold them in place, ending up with leftover sauce in the bottom of the bowl hardly seems like the end of the world.  (Pass the bread, please.)  No fear of that this week.  New England tomatoes are gasping their last, with only a few red diehards and lots of green wannnabees still about.  Together they make a great sauce that tastes of the season.  Bucatini with Red and Green Tomatoes is the pasta to eat at the gate of fall.  Blink, and even the green tomatoes will be gone.

HIGH ON THE HOG – PAN-SEARED PORK CHOPS WITH GRAPES AND LEMON

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Last week we ate low on the hog, flavoring a polenta and squash dish with a bit of pancetta.  This week we’re stepping up our pork game, way up, with Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Grapes and Lemon. Fatty pork is once again becoming available for those without restaurants or the price of airfare to Italy.  Real pork chops–as versus the pink things wrapped in plastic in most supermarkets–are uncomplicated to cook, and delicious to eat.  Personally speaking, this recipe marks a turning point for me, a return to cooking chops at home after a 20-year hiatus.  Somebody cast a spell on this country’s pigs a couple of decades ago, morphing their chops and loins into a tough, flavorless substance called “the other white meat.”  If your experience with pork has been barbecue or bacon, then you owe it to yourself to get down to a farmers market to suss out some chops from heritage breeds of pork and taste the real deal.

Bluefish with Dukkah, Tomatoes and Garlic Yogurt

Bluefish with Dukkah, Tomatoes and Garlic Yogurt-1

Three or four summers ago I was standing in water up to my knees on a sandbar known as Horseshoe Shoal in the middle of Barnstable Harbor, that long shark-shaped body of water that swims between the shores of Sandy Neck to the north and the town of Barnstable to the south on Cape Cod.  As I watched, a flock of seabirds raced down the channel that passes between the sandbar and Sandy Neck.  The birds swooped and cried, strafing a line across the water with their beaks as precise as a squadron of P-51 Mustangs.  Then I saw it, a deep slate discoloration below the channel surface, an undulating gray movement that fragmented into hundreds of individual fish as it flashed by me.  I wasn’t the only one to take notice.  Small boats stopped in the channel, people rising to stand, hands shading eyes.  “Blues!” a man cried, waving and pointing.  It was August and the bluefish were running.  For anglers and eaters on Cape Cod, only striped bass equal the pleasures of bluefish.  Stripers taste more delicate, but bluefish fight harder.  This week’s dish: Bluefish with Dukkah, Tomatoes and Garlic Yogurt.

Pique-Nique I – Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory

 

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Fat.  Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we?  Fat’s probably the best place to begin a discussion of Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory.  Au debut, as the French say, in the beginning, rillettes meant one thing – pork.  Or rather, pork and fat.  Rillettes was pork that had been salted, cooked slowly in pork fat, shredded, then preserved in the same fat, and served at room temperature, usually spread on toast.  Rillettes* are now found all over France, and while pork is still popular, in the Southwest, the Midi-Pyrenees, extending down to the Spanish border, the technique is more often seen with duck or rabbit.  Today rillettes of salmon, tuna or other fatty fish, or even mushrooms are not uncommon on pricey menus.  It’s hard to argue with that–what doesn’t taste good when cooked slowly in fat and salt?

Grilled Skirt Steak with Spicy Green Romesco

 

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As you read this, we’re feverishly running around dropping off the animals, picking up last-minute compact flash cards, camera batteries and a new swimsuit.  This afternoon we fly off on vacation, to spend a couple of weeks connecting with old friends, exploring prehistoric cave painting, cycling, drinking, eating and playing Bananagrams on the terrace.  I’m still uncertain about whether we’re going to go dark–EVERYBODY needs some time off the grid–or if I’ll try figuring out some sort of wifi connection for the occasional splash of photos.  In the meantime we’re going out with something that anyone can use to make themselves look like a back yard fire god, Grilled Skit Steak with Spicy Green Romesco.  You need a food processor and a bit of patience.  Look at the photos: No complicated technique.  Believe me, you’ll be killer.

Seared Salmon with Strawberries, Rose Water and Balsamic Vinegar

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I had my first experience with balsamic vinegar, the bona fide aged article from Modena in Emilia Romagna, while working in a gourmet grocery store in rural Rhode Island in 1981.  I remember the occasion because it involved tasting a small drizzle atop strawberries and I thought it was a prank.  The taste was transformative.  Imagine sweet-tart strained through a bottle of Chateau Margaux.  The combination has remained with me ever since.  You can catch an echo of that experience in this week’s Seared Salmon with Strawberries, Rose Water and Balsamic Vinegar.

Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil

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If I ever leave New England, it will be the taste of a freshly seared Atlantic sea scallop that brings me back.  Big, meaty, packed with marine flavor.  When people talk about regional American cuisine and they trot out Texas or North Carolina barbecue or Virginia hams or Alaskan salmon, I always ask if they’ve ever tasted a genuine New England sea scallop.  Most haven’t.  This week: Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil.  The sea scallops are large, they take a thin edge of delicious sear while remaining moist and rare in the center, and they hold a delicious court with butter, peas and chervil.

Layla and Mohammed’s Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout

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The little piles of sesame seeds atop the prunes are the traditional way of garnishing the dish.

We’re baaaaaaacccckkkkk….  with a dish that’s great for a winter that refuses to die–Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout.  Before we stumbled through an invisible portal into the Gehenna of wiring, longtime Rialto employee Mohammed Karachi and his family spent a morning cooking with us.  Mohammed’s wife Layla walked us through their Moroccan family recipe for braised short ribs, using ras el hanout from Mohammed’s mother.  What a treat!  Layla’s ribs easily earned a place in my personal pantheon of great braised dishes.  The spicy and sweet components are kept separate until the dish is served.  Do you want a forkful of beef with Moroccan seasoning and a bit of prune at the same time?  Or first the spicy, then the sweet?  (My preference.)  It’s comforting either way.

Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives

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Ah, children.  If you append the name of one child to a dish, the other will someday ask, “Why didn’t you ever name anything after me?”  Our son Oliver’s mastery of Oliver’s Chicken Stew made him a culinary hero to his impoverished roommates.  Our daughter turned 18 this week – sob - and reminded us that she needed a dish that she could take with her to college, something within her skill set that might make her a culinary goddess to her future roommates, something with her name on it.  Ergo Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives.