Garam Masala is subtle. No one would mistake this for curry. It’s more like a warm summer welcome that announces the flavor of scallops and corn, hands you a drink and a fork, and then gets out of the way.
How often do you discover something delicious from a part of the world you know and you’ve never even heard of it? That’s the case with trahana for us, from Greece.
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.
In these days of masked excursions and social distancing the only thing that ought to be packed together like sardines in a can is. . . sardines in a can. Except that now you can invite them out for their own unmasked excursion where they can play with sautéed fennel, pine nuts and currants (oops! …
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.
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
Local Massachusetts peaches seem increasingly old-fashioned to me, meaning that you make a mess when you eat one (unless a nearby vendor gives you slices) and while they taste sweet they also have a faint counterpoint of tartness. This makes them the ideal companion for salty prosciutto. I suppose we could have left it at that, but we also had a raft of mint and some pistachios, so Jody upped the ante with a pistachio-mint pesto that doesn’t require much more than a quick buzz in the food processor. Fresh mozzarella makes it a sumptuous enough to stand in for lunch, if that’s where’s you want to go. You’ll also be relieved to know that local cherry tomatoes, now at their spectacular peak, don’t require peeling. This is the easiest antipasto you’ll even encounter, especially on a hot day when instead of cooking all you want to do is savor the last days of summer.
Making Summer Berries with Sabayon is about as easy as dessert gets. The only thing easier would be to eat the berries with nothing, or just whipped cream. But then you wouldn’t get the texture of sabayon, one of the cooking world’s great miracles–cooked eggs that have been prevented from forming curds. Sabayon is foamy, yet substantive. It can stand on its own as a dessert and offers a great medium for sweet or fortified wine, which is why it’s often made with Marsala. Plus, if you’re feeling Italian, rather than French, you can say you just whipped up a batch of zabaglione (s/zaa-bal-YOH-nee), which to my ear sounds like something Willy Wonka eats for breakfast on holidays.
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.
For your consideration: Po’s Easy Pots de Crème. Po is my mother-in-law and she is a master of complicated dinner party timing. None of the slatternly boozing it up with the help in the kitchen that characterizes entertaining chez nous. She’s all guests-in-one-place, cooks-in-another, and the brevity of a host’s absence from her guests only redounds to her reputation for efficient culinary management. Ninety-percent of this recipe is “Place all of the ingredients… in a blender.” Not that you’d know it from the taste and texture. Remember how the genie in Disney’s ALADDIN describes his life? “ALL THE POWER OF THE UNIVERSE… in a teeny little space.” That’s this dessert.