Sunday, January 23, 2011


My friend George writes a very beautiful blog and shames me with his dedication not just by regularly posting, but also because his careful research is impressive. I sometimes wish he would pop in some gastronomic tidbits, but, the gossip is in itself is nutritious and I always end up satisfied.

I'm so ready to read Taras Grescoe's recent book Bottomfeeder. I was a huge fan of his book The Devil's Picnic. Popping Omega-3 fish oil pills recently, I've felt the benefit, though I won't share here in what way. I cook fish about once a week and here is a picture of this past Friday's salmon dish with fennel and scallions, fingerling potatoes, all roasted. To accompany, I whisked up fresh mayonnaise and added chopped cornichons for an impromptu tartar sauce, and loosely mixed up a garlicky viinaigrette for the salad bowl of mixed greens, dill and radicchio. Let me tell you that when you have a tiny kitchen and a busy day, roasting food makes it all a lot easier, and the preparation is easy. The most complicated element in the picture was the mayonnaise/tartar sauce since it was whipped up from scratch and even then it took five minutes. The rest roasted like this, 20 minutes for the fingerlings and fennel, sliced thinly. 15 minutes for the skin on steelhead salmon. Salt. Pepper. Well you can see the results in the pic.

If The Moon Were A Piece Of Cheese

If the moon were a piece of cheese it would be a finely holy havarti with a smile gently pressed into it. Tonight, unprepared food-wise, I quickly picked up a block of havarti, a chunk of buttery St. André, a loaf of "rustic"bread, grilled artichokes, olives, mortadella and coppa for an al fresco supper. As we grazed I was reminded of the French themed lunches which often featured my mother's home made terrines shared around the family table in my youth, though this one, American in spirit was much more mix and match.

As I understand it the moon is not made of cheese, but of rock and dust, and its gravity exerts a force on bodies of water, contributing to the ebb and flow of ocean tides. Our human bodies average a sixty per cent water content and so we are susceptible too. Judging by some of the craziness affecting me this last week, our current full moon is ripely smiling at its power to watch us all squirm down here, and I am snifiing that cheese-like stink. And on into this new week. Here is a similar supper the next night, my home pickled Persian cucumbers, sardines from the can in olive oil, the leftover bread and a mug of home made chicken broth, apparently Louis XVI broke his fast with a Sèvres cup of it each morning. I finished this evening with a with a similar brew in a gift-mug from Las Vegas.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

All Caution Thrown To The Wind

It has suddenly warmed up here in LA. Of course it's probably because Awards Season is upon us once again. Don't start thinking it's all part of the climate change thing, as we know full well here in Vanity City it's the heat from the rest of the world's gazing eyes toasting up the atmosphere in our little bubble. Living in greater Hollywood makes residents adept at avoiding traffic snarls that result from road closures for the events, but I did get caught in the Critic's Choice Awards mess around The Palladium last night since that one was not on my radar. In fact, I realize I am generally out of touch with that kind of buzz since I hardly watch broadcast TV and don't subscribe to cable. I do, however, watch movies and TV series of interest through Netflix. I get my industry news from friends, the newspapers online, and NPR. I do drive by The Kodak Theater and all along Hollywood Boulevard almost daily to make sure everything is ticking over nicely.

So the Awards Season is signal for me to "hunker down" and hide away, which I like to do anyway. I've cozied up to my own weekend Merchant Ivory DVD season (mixed in with Mad Men 2 and Reilly). I ran out and got a large tube of Winsor&Newton's Cadmium Red oil paint at Blick's sale, and, throwing all caution to the wind, a boneless leg of lamb which you see above all ready to season and pop in the oven.

Here it is again, studded with a head of garlic, rosemary sprigs from my own plant, crushed juniper berries and allspice, with pepper ground from my new Perfex grinder (a Christmas gift), and all laden in an oval roasting dish (also a Christmas gift). It's currently in the oven at 400f with potatoes, parsnips and carrots all cozying up to each other. I will let you know how it all turns out. Time to prep the shallots and stock for the gravy!

Sadly I was so eating the results that I failed to capture a pic of it, but, I will tell you that it all came out well and there is plenty left over for a lamb curry. For the gravy I lightly browned finely chopped shallots and added a little clarified turkey stock to soften. Added a cup of medium flavored Douro and brought it to the boil. I poured off the oil from the baking pan after removing the roast to leave the thick black caramelized roasting juices.  I then added the boiled stock with wine and popped it back in the oven to liquefy the pan juices. Ten minutes later I brought the pan back out of the oven and strained it all through a simple sieve. Added micro-planed lemon peel into it and thickened it with a very little cornstarch. Coarsely chopped parsley followed. It made the richest most delicious black sauce drizzled over the meat and soaked over the hard crusted potatoes. The Yukon potatoes were roasted in their own dish, having been parboiled and then scored, and then halved and open face down in canola oil. The parsnips and carrots were roasted whole without oil in their own dish - what intense flavor! some fresh peas added to the veggies on serving.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Memory Lane

I'm sipping a very inexpensive Soave and remembering The Veneto. I think it's remarkable that a wine priced this affordably can be fragrant, complex and dry without losing impact. Forgive me, feeling pretty suave for it, while I watch Reilly, Ace of Spies Disk 2 which is just as engaging as it was on first run, and I'm thinking of far off places. I'm also enjoying Michael Krondl's book, The Taste of Conquest and have just finished the sparkly chapter on Venice. Krondl's style is spicy in itself, but I have yet to read about allspice, my current favorite addition to robust meat dishes of any kind. No mind, a glance ahead in the index says that it will be mentioned in the chapter on Lisbon. Krondl focuses on the principal middlemen in the game and the cities that prospered most from that effort, venice, Lisbon and Amsterdam, but it seems so far there is a constant background city in Istanbul, for it seems that all merchants had to either deal with or get around dealing with Istanbul and The Turks. It's a ripping yarn to be sure, and I recommend the book for it's clarity and general cheer.

I get my allspice from Nicole's in South Pasadena, a great source for raw spice here in LA. I crush it with a pan and add it early in the cooking so that the breakdown can occur, it being a robust, slow release of its flavor. Particularly good with roasting pork or beef, any stew from any ethnic cooking, including chile con carne or a bolognese ragu, benefit from its peppery, nutmeggy, faintly cinnamon-like flavors. With a little fresh sage and thyme, my little kitchen is in business tonight for roasted loin of pork with whole onions.