Ken and the kids used to eat baked potatoes with butter, kimchi and sour cream when I wasn’t looking. What if it kimchi, potatoes and sugar snap peas made a summer salad?
Crossword puzzle aficionados will recognize Nobody ever told me as a familiar clue. The answer is LAMEEXCUSE. That’s all I can offer for why I didn’t recognize the orange slab of swordfish Jody brought home for this week’s blog. It’s called pumpkin swordfish – new to me – and the jack o’lantern color results from …
Salt and pepper scrod, smear on the yogurt-mayo combo and throw it in the oven. Wait a bit, then add a pound of asparagus (two pounds works too), just so you don’t have a meal that’s white fish on white plate with white sauce. Ten minutes of prep, half an hour while everything cooks – wango-tango and Bob’s your uncle – there’s dinner.
This is the simplest salmon recipe you will ever read. Your dog could make this recipe. You put a skillet of boiling water on the lowest rack of a preheated oven. A baking dish with oiled and seasoned salmon goes on the rack above it. Everything remains in place for 45 minutes. The most succulent …
For me it doesn’t get any better than duck. Steak can be great, fish exquisite, but canard tops them all. There’s no arguing with taste, so instead of arguing with me just know that if we end up marooned on the same island, and my side has the ducks and your side has the emus or llamas or cows, and there’s only sufficient forage and fresh water for one set of domesticated farm animals, yours will have to learn to swim. Before I wrote this I ran through the blog wondering how often I’d written about duck before. To my surprise, the answer was once. If you’re living someplace warm, and fancy some grilled duck breast with peaches, have at it. The rest of us in New England are glancing skyward, like GAME of THRONES extras with their first speaking roles, muttering, “Winter is coming.” Grilling may not be in our cards these days, but as lovers of duck we are resourceful. We’re plundering one of Rialto’s most well-known dishes for its flavor combinations—Slow-Roasted Duck with Green Olives–and translating them into something much simpler. A homey pasta dish. Herewith, Duck Ragu with Pancetta and Green Olives.
Okay, I admit it–I love fishy fish. You can keep catfish, but once that’s off the table, I’ll eat everything else. Bring on the sea urchin roe, mackeral, fresh sardines and all swimming things smoked and pickled. All grand. But if I were Neptune, sitting at my right hand, way above the salt, would be bluefish. This week we’re serving Bluefish Agrodolce, an easy easy easy dish. And when you’ve gotten agrodolce, a quick sweet-sour sauce, well in hand you can serve it with just about any kind of seafood with a bit of gumption. Welcome aboard.
Two words almost never seen paired together: quick and favas. Yet, both apply to this week’s Lazy Man’s Fava Bean Salad with Spring Greens and Pecorino. In retrospect, we might have called it Romantic Man’s (or Woman’s) Fava Bean Salad because it’s just the sort of thing that two people comfortable with bumping hips in a kitchen can make together for their own romantic lunch. The salad makes 4 servings, but these can be stretched if you’re serving it as a starter to, say, grilled lamb or fish.
Do you remember the first time you tasted Roquefort? Heheh. Me too. Took awhile, didn’t it? Roquefort, like bottarga, scotch and uni, is one of those tastes that waits for your tongue to grow up. Ideally, you have your first Roquefort with someone who will hold your hand, steadfast as your eyes water, until sufficient sensory signals from your tongue accumulate in your brain to ignite Roquefort-appreciation synapses, and they in turn link together in a blazing neuro-culinary ah-ha moment. Which, given the components of this week’s recipe – fat, sugar, salt – they are sure to do. Poached Pears with Honey Walnuts and Roquefort Ice Cream, is a very easy dessert, but one for the big people. It is also, for those hesitant about blue cheese, an excellent introduction, since only a small amount is used, and that is mashed into vanilla ice cream.
Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga is not a traditional Sardinian delicacy. Bottarga and celery, yes; chicken wings, ah no. This dish is, in fact, the love child of two different desires, Jody’s yearning for wings and my own wish to do another Sardinian recipe before I throw in the towel, tuck my shorts away in my Camp Grenada footlocker. Sardinian wings were the result, and just in time. A couple of days of freezing rain have stripped more than a few trees in our neighborhood of their autumn raiment; limbs are skeletal,not festive and the uncleared sidewalks resemble the killing floor in a chlorophyll slaughterhouse. And it got cold, provoking someone in our house to violated the First Law of Yankee-dom: No one shall touch the thermostat until November 1st. The one good thing about cold weather is that it means a new harvest of bottarga will be soon at hand. And with this wings recipe in hand, when this season’s bottarga becomes available in mid-to-late November or early December, you’ll be primed. While everyone else is still fumbling with their laces you’ll be burning down the track, chicken wings and celery bundled under your arm. Nyah-nyah-nuh-nyah-yah. And how did we make this recipe if bottarga won’t be available for another month? Easy, we whittled down our own two-year-old chunk of umami ambergris that has been cooling its eggs in our fridge. No lie – I ordered it online at the end of 2012. When was the last time you consumed something from your fridge that was two years old? Still as potently delicious as the day we bought it. With chicken wings and celery it was a ménage à trois made in heaven. After Jody left at the conclusion of our cooking and shooting session, I was the only one home, not counting the Lagunitas IPA’s in the fridge. The next morning there were no wings to be found. Draw your own conclusions.
After a week of biking through Sardinia with Ciclismo Classico, I have to say the island resists being pinned down. Rural Sardinia puts on a deceptively simple face – sleepy villages, delicious basic cuisine, agriculture based around sheep, friendly people. But once you start to look closely things don’t appear quite Italian. The ghost of one culture appears and lingers just long enough for a sense of certainty to develop – oh, Sardinia is really Spanish – when it disappears, replaced by a different revenant – oh, no, it really is Italian… or Phoenician, or Roman or Greek. Signage often appears in multiple languages–Italian, variants of Sardu, the Sardinian language, and sometimes another local language, like the Catalan dialect spoken in one part of the island. Welcome signs outside of villages typically greet visitors in French, German and English, as well as Italian and Sardu. Sometimes all you can do is take experience in, ask questions, and hope you get back. It’s unusual for Jody and me to encounter so many new culinary treats in one place. Local ingredients we thought we knew were often combined in unexpected ways. Like this dessert of Ricotta, Cinnamon, Honey and Orange, a dish we enjoyed at Trattoria da Riccardo, a Magomadas restaurant owned by the cyclist/chef Riccardo Cadoni and his family. It’s so good, so simple, that unless you roll with a much more travelled cabal of culinary sophisticates than I do, it will be a delightful surprise to whomever you serve it. You can pretty much do everything at table. Simple, delicious, and a bit surprising, a description that might sum up Sardinia itself. Enjoy. Ken