GOAT CHEESE PIZZA WITH PORCINI SALAD

Pizza with Porcini Salad-35

What happens in our kitchen owes as much to happenstance as deliberate intention and sometimes the alignment of culinary planets all but makes a certain dish inevitable. Baby arugula arrived from Allendale Farms last week; Ben, the go-to guy for mushrooms for Rialto, came into a batch of fresh porcini. Jody and her staff paid a visit to Valley View Farm in Topsfield, Massachusetts for a close look at how artisanal goat cheese is made (and came home with lots of chevre). And finally [cue trumpet flourish] my new Baking Steel arrived. Let’s see: great ingredients + Baking Steel (the industrial steel world’s answer to a pizza stone). Was there really any choice other than to make Pizza with a Porcini Salad?

Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-1

This is a recipe for the 5th, 6th or 9th of July, but not the 4th, when the grilling train pulls into town with its freight cars of steaks, lobsters, salmon filets, pork shoulders, eggplant, roasted peppers, whatever.  Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto is easy–you could do it–but it will get lost amid the fanfare over Aunt Sophie’s famous deviled eggs, and the potato salad made with diced fermented sour pickles from Brooklyn, and the story about your brother Bob who almost blew his thumb off with an m-80 when he was a kid.

Save it for a quiet day this weekend, when a meal with just one main course and only one or two sides or a salad sounds great, when there’s a bit of culinary light left to shine on a rare seasonal treat.

Casado – the Blue Zone lunch

Lunch in the Blue Zone - Casado-1

We’re back on course to the next Blue Zone* – the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica!  Casado – the married man’s lunch is our take on a Nicoyan central meal of the day, protein and salad along with a foundation of black beans and rice seasoned with a particular Costa Rican twist.

The Nicoya Peninisula is a 80-mile long thumb of land that juts into the Pacific from the northwest corner of Costa Rica.  Among a certain type of backpacking tourist the peninsula is famous for its many beaches which ring the coastline.  But the Blue Zone of the Nicoya Penisula does not include the coast – it is the interior, home of large national parks, still quite rural, and with many inhabitants living traditional lifestyles either as independent farmers or as sedentary agricultural workers finding employment on larger farms, and raising corn, beans, and other vegetables (including two forms of taro) in their own family plots.  Until recently the Nicoya Peninsula was relatively isolated, reachable only by ferry until 2003, which saw the opening of the Taiwan Friendship Bridge.

At first glance the Nicoyan diet may not seem that remarkable–rice, beans and tortillas–along with a lot of fruit. But at 60 a Costa Rican man has about twice the chance of reaching 90 as one from the U.S., and this from a country whose medical budget is about 15% of that of the U.S. Nicoyans are some of the healthiest, most long-lived people on the planent. Say hello to Casado – beans and rice with all the fixings.

Puglian Barley Salad with Pecorino Cheese


“Hot-buttered groat clusters!”  –Firesign Theater.

One of the pleasures of travelling is tdrawing close to the seemingly familiar only to suddenly discover it strikingly different, like this Puglian Barley Salad with Pecorino Cheese.  Looks ordinary.  But the taste – not like barley on this planet.  Many of the more forward thinking participants in Italy’s agritourismo movement are attempting to preserve regional variations on farm products that for one reason or another have fallen from grace or never gained the favor of larger commercial ventures. Barley is a case in point–in Puglia, where it’s often hulled, rather than pearled, it’s chewy.

And chewy barley is a delight.

Warm Radish Salad with Bacon and Pea Tips

Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.  That’s the way it was with Warm Radish Salad with Bacon and Pea Tips.  Salad is a killer to photograph.  Light glints off the dressed surfaces, producing bits of glare or “hot spots.”  And if the salad is one part greens and another part something else, then while it may taste delicious to toss everything together, that homestyle approach doesn’t make for an alluring photo.  The heavier components tend to weigh down the more delicate ones.  What’s a guy with a camera and a chef for a wife to do?

Make the damn salad and photograph it a second time, that’s what.*  The salad above is composed with a photograph, or dinner guests, in mind–radishes here, salad there, easy on the dressing.  The photo shot from straight down later in the post is the way we’d normally eat the salad in all its messy collapsed glory.  Different stees.

You choose.

Wilted Green Salad with Fresh Chickpeas, Feta and Greek Yogurt

Craig Claiborne, the late pioneer of food journalism for the New York Times once wrote a New Year’s Day column that included the line, “Blessed indeed is the household whose refrigerator contains an overlooked tin of caviar.”  Yes, well.  For most of us, caviar times may be gone, but that only means the return of our salad days.  Substitute chickpeas for caviar and you’re halfway to Wilted Green Salad with Fresh Chickpeas, Feta and Greek Yogurt.

Avocado Salad with Pikliz

In case you haven’t noticed by now, Jody and I both love condiments, the more unfamiliar the better.  Every year we have to do a major refrigerator purge because the long term residents have moved off the door or the impractical skinny shelf into the space reserved for more temporary tenants like leftovers or fresh …

Salad Daze – Summer Tomatoes with Grilled Corn and Barley

Is there anyone on the planet who waits longer for their tomatoes than the nightshade gourmands of New England?  I’m sure Scandinavians have to muster even greater patience than New Englanders, but are Scandinavians really into tomatoes?  Evidence suggests they pine for beets and lingonberries and reindeer blood.  National Geographic scientists billeted in the arctic …

Allandale Farm Salad

If you spent this past spring in soggy New England dreaming of warm dry weather while  gazing at the mural in a Greek restaurant then the current heat wave probably finds you in a bit of a stupor, although perhaps not of happiness.  The solution?  Get yourself to a farmers’ market – or an actual …