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Archive for the ‘Main dishes’ Category

This year, Independence Day was not our usual American-style festive occasion. After a masked morning walk in the very quiet neighborhood (hopefully looking for local corn in the Greenmarket; but no, none yet), Tom and I came home, turned on the air conditioners, and resumed our now-inevitable cloistered activities – which, of course, always include cooking.

Toward evening, I took out two nice big veal scallops for our dinner.
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I’d chosen a new-to-me Spanish recipe to try with them. Tom declared that would make a fine patriotic dish for the holiday, to commemorate how the Spanish Armada helped George Washington defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.

So we made Tenera alla Extremeña, or Veal with Chorizo and Green Peppers, from Penelope Casas’s The Foods and Wines of Spain. Preparing the ingredients provided plenty of knife work for my creative historian, starting with cutting both veal scallops in half for ease of handling. While he continued chopping vegetables, I salted and browned the veal pieces quickly in olive oil, in two batches.
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The pieces of veal came out to a plate, and in the same pan I sautéed finely chopped green pepper, red onion, and garlic, for five minutes.
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Next went in thinly sliced dry-cured chorizo, for two minutes.
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Then, very small amounts of a good manzanilla sherry, chicken broth and tomato sauce, along with dried thyme, bay leaf, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
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Back went the veal scallops into the pan, where they cooked slowly, covered, for 15 minutes. being turned and basted in the sauce twice.
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This was a very good dish – an unmistakably Spanish one, thanks to the chorizo spices and the sherry. Though the green pepper had almost disappeared, it had flavored the sauce very pleasantly, as had the onion and garlic, more lightly.
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A slight disappointment was that the veal wasn’t as fully tender as we’d have liked. That’s can be a problem about veal: If you don’t get it into and out of a pan very quickly, the muscle clenches, and it then needs long cooking to make it relax again.

In any event, we had a very nice dinner. It started with sardine fillets on baguette toasts, with extra-virgin olive oil. This was our last can of the excellent sardines we’d brought back from last year’s trip to Portugal.
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Dinner ended, finally, on a July Fourth-ish note, with strawberry shortcake. My historian informed me that this dessert had become a festive tradition because George Washington served it to the Spanish admirals Pulaski and Kosciuszko at the Yorktown victory dinner.

 

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I knew it was summer when zucchini appeared in my greenmarket. The first ones I saw, in the first stand I came to, I instantly bought two. Normally I check all the market’s produce before buying anything, but with the first of this season, I couldn’t resist. Outsmarted myself, I did. Because as I moved on through the market, I saw not only more of the common zucchini but also one stand with the vastly superior Costata Romanesco variety. Oh, what to do?! I bought two of them too, of course.

After eating the delicious, small, heirloom zucchini that very evening, I had to think of what to make with their bulbous lesser cousins.

 

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There was no point letting them sit around in the refrigerator, because I could pick up fresh ones any day now. In the past, my usual solution to drive-by zucchini drops from friends’ over-ebullient vegetable patches has been zucchini bread – the sweet, quick-bread type, raised by baking powder and usually including walnuts. I have several good recipes for it, but I thought I’d look for one that would be a little different.

In the Breads volume of the Time-Life Good Cook series I found a very different one: not a quick bread at all but a yeast bread, totally unsweetened and, except for the zucchini, made with nothing but flour, yeast, water, and salt. This was intriguing. What would it be like – a French baguette dotted with the vegetable? I’d give it a try.

I grated both zucchini coarsely on my Kitchen-Aid mixer, stirred two tablespoons of salt into the shreds, and left them in a bowl for half an hour to give up their excess water.

 

They did that, copiously. When I squeezed them fairly dry, they came to two cups’ worth, which would have been exactly what the recipe wanted for a very large cylindrical loaf. In a spirit of caution, I decided to make half a recipe’s worth for this experiment.
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So, into a cup of the grated zucchini I stirred 2½ cups of flour mixed with ¾ teaspoon of instant yeast. It was a dry crumbly mass, not coming together at all. For that I had to knead in “enough tepid water to make a smooth but fairly firm dough.” Half the recipe’s suggested amount of water was ¾ cup, which at first didn’t seem nearly enough, so I gave it more. But as the kneading progressed, the dough softened and got all sticky. I had to add quite a bit more flour to achieve the right texture. I should have trusted my source.

Eventually I had a properly firm dough, which I shaped into a round and set to rise – skeptically wondering if it would ever do so, with all that vegetable material holding it down. But it doubled in bulk very promptly, raising my hopes.
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And when I shaped it into a loaf and left it for a second rise, it behaved very well again.
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Just before baking, for 45 minutes at 425°, I had to brush the bread with olive oil “to prevent the pieces of pieces of zucchini on the surface from burning.” Not that there were very many of them, and they seemed to have shrunk quite a bit in the kneading. The loaf didn’t rise much more in the baking, but it came out with a rich brown crust and a pleasantly loose, airy crumb.
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It was excellent: more subtly flavorful than I’d have thought possible in a dough with no butter or oil, no egg, no milk. How the zucchini accomplished that I can only wonder, because there was only the faintest ghost of its own flavor in the bread – if you thought very hard about it.

We ate that loaf as a dinner bread, as breakfast toast, and for lunch sandwiches. It was delicious in all those roles. I wish I’d used all the grated zucchini to make a whole recipe’s worth, in two loaves like this, one for the freezer. Well, next time for sure!

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P.S.  What I did with the rest of the grated zucchini was make a traditional sweet quick bread, using a recipe given to me long ago by my friend Jennifer. As always, it was very good of its kind too: delicious toasted for breakfast, and a very nice afternoon snack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Early June brings two important dates for Tom and me, snugged around each side of D-Day. The 5th is my birthday, and the 7th is our wedding anniversary. Last year we celebrated them with a splendid week in Venice; this year, of course, we were confined to home. Accordingly, we indulged ourselves with two elegant dinners for those days.

 

The Birthday Dinner

The main dish at this meal was based on a long-time favorite recipe for casserole-roasted pheasant – Fagiano ai sapori veneziani – from our book The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen. It has done great things for guinea hen, as well as for pheasant, so I thought I’d see what it would do for a chicken. The “Venetian flavors” here are celery, carrot, onion, pancetta, prosciutto, sage, rosemary, and white wine. The savory combination contributed an intriguing hint of wildness to half an excellent free-range chicken.
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Our first course was two little parmesan cheese custards, sformati di parmigiano. It’s a clipped recipe I’ve had for years and keep forgetting about, then happily rediscovering. It’s rich, easy, and good. Essentially just eggs, grated cheese, and heavy cream, baked briefly in a bain marie, unmolded and served with optional tomato sauce on the side. Makes a lovely light appetizer for company, if one could only have company again!
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The Anniversary Dinner

All through May, the season for fresh morel mushrooms, we searched markets for them, with no success. At last we acquired a single batch of big, beautiful ones.
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After cooking them all and eating half immediately, we froze the rest to save for this celebratory first course: feuilletés aux morilles à la crème. The puff pastry dough was not homemade, but I did cut and shape it into bouchée cases, which became crisp, buttery, flaky containers for the morels.
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Our main course – extravagant, elegant, and utterly simple – was one big, rare, rib of beef, cooked in an open pan on top of the stove in a way that makes it taste like a classic standing rib roast. I’ve written here about this recipe from Roger Vergé’s Cuisine of the South of France. We chose it for this evening specifically to partner with a very special bottle of red wine, which it did to perfection. (See below.) This is a fabulous preparation for the very best beef.
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The Dessert

I saw a luscious-looking raspberry ricotta cake on someone else’s blog and fell in love with it. Google found the recipe for me on the Bon Appétit website, and I made the cake to serve for both our festive dinners. The 1½ cups of fresh ricotta that went into the rich, sweet batter produced a cake as light and cushiony as a cloud. In the mix I substituted fresh raspberries for frozen, which wasn’t entirely wise: fewer fresh berries fill a measuring cup than frozen ones. Fortunately, I had extra berries to serve alongside, with big dollops of whipped crème fraiche. Heavenly! The cake held up perfectly for the second dinner, as well.
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And to Drink . . .

Both days, we started with glasses of Champagne, of course. For my birthday, even though the food was Italianate, it went beautifully with a French wine: a 1990 Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin. The anniversary meal, as I mentioned above, was chosen deliberately to match a wine: one long-cherished bottle of the extraordinary 2006 Ridge California Montebello, which we’d been waiting for just the right special occasion to drink. And, for digestifs both days, snifters of a fine Spanish brandy called 1866.
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Tom has written about the wines in his own blog, for those who’d like to know more about them.

 

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The quotation marks in my title above are an acknowledgement that only the tiniest fraction of the ancestry of the duck legs I used for this recipe was wild. They were from moulards, a hybrid of Muscovy and Pekin ducks. Muscovies are native to South America, and some have become feral in the US, but I think their hybrid offspring are all born in barnyards.

I wish we could have gotten hold of a truly wild duck for the dish, but that’s never easy. Moulards are very tasty ducks, though, and rich enough in flavor to suggest game birds. Big ones, too: Each of these legs weighed three-quarters of a pound.
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This Cajun recipe, which I noticed for the first time in my copy of The New Orleans Cookbook, by Rima and Richard Collin, is very time-consuming, but that’s not a problem in these days of sheltering at home. For much of that time, the dish just cooks along all by itself. I’ll also mention that, despite the recipe’s racy name and New Orleans’ bibulous reputation, essentially none of the alcohol persists into the finished dish.
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In the late morning of duck dinner day, I made up a marinade for the legs, using red wine, brandy, onions, parsley, thyme, marjoram, allspice, and bay leaf.
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I trimmed the legs of as much excess fat as possible, then salted and peppered them and plopped them into the marinade for five hours in the refrigerator. They needed to be turned over in the shallow liquid once every hour.
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Then the legs were to be browned thoroughly in butter and olive oil. They took the opportunity of this step to release a huge amount of fat from under their skin and did their best to spatter it all over my apron and the stove.
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Since wild ducks wouldn’t have had all that fat, I drew off most of it before continuing the cooking. The next step was to add minced garlic, thinly sliced mushrooms, some of the strained marinade, and a little beef broth from a bouillon cube.
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Finally, it was just to cover the pot and simmer gently until the duck was tender. The recipe suggested that would take 1¼ to 1½ hours. Mine took all of 2 hours, and I had to add some hot water to keep the sauce from reducing down to nothing but fat. Good thing I’d started very early in the day!

To serve alongside the duck I had a big bunch of the year’s first local asparagus, which I roasted in the oven, and some end-of-season local fingerling potatoes, which I just boiled.
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This was a very rich and unctuous dinner plate. The duck was intensely flavorful (though I must admit, still not quite as tender as we’d have preferred), the mushrooms almost meaty, the potatoes happy to soak up the sauce, and the excellent, really fresh asparagus hearty and glistening from having been tossed with olive oil for the roasting. It all needed an assertive red wine to cut through the fats, and Tom gave it one: a nice, earthy, five-year-old Pommard.

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Sometimes I think cooking is more alchemy than science. One day you take ordinary ingredients, treat them in ordinary ways, and produce a delicious dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Another day, it’s just the opposite: equally good ingredients and equally normal treatments turn out what can only be called a bummer. Those must be days when you’ve neglected to activate the philosopher’s stone.

My latest case of the bad magic arose with a little cache of oxtails – four nice pieces that would be just enough for a small main course for two.

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I know several very good ways of preparing oxtails. I’ve written here about an Italian recipe, a Spanish one, and a British one. Now, when I found a French oxtail recipe in the Variety Meats volume of the Time-Life Good Cook series – which, moreover, is credited to Elizabeth David’s classic book French Provincial Cooking – I was eager to try it. It was oxtails cooked with black olives: a new combination to me.

The recipe calls for six pounds of oxtails, so I was scaling it way down. I did take the liberty of ignoring David’s first step, which is soaking the meat in cold water for two hours. The English author might have found that necessary with 1960s British butchery, but I’ve never done it or even seen it in any other oxtail recipe. Certainly, the tails we get here now are very fresh and clean. Other than that, everything about the recipe seemed geared to produce a rich, tasty braise.

I briefly browned my oxtail pieces in olive oil while I made up a little bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and orange peel. Then I sprinkled two tablespoons of brandy into the pot, flamed it, tucked the bouquet garni in among the pieces of meat, poured in a quarter cup of white wine and “let it bubble fiercely for a minute or two,” as the recipe advises.
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Next, I added broth and water to reach just to the top of the oxtail pieces, covered the pot, and baked it in a very low oven (290°) for three hours. Twice I looked in to turn the pieces over. At the end, despite the heavy pot lid, the liquid had reduced somewhat. Perhaps the meat had absorbed some as it rendered its fat, of which there was a good layer floating on the surface.

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David offers the option, at this point, of chilling both meat and liquid separately overnight, to solidify the fat and lift it off easily. I chose not to do that, since I wanted the dish for dinner that night. Besides, there was more cooking to be done, so I could draw off the fat later. I stirred in half a cup of pitted ripe olives and simmered the pot on a stove burner for about another hour, until the meat was ready to fall off the bones.
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This dish should have been good. I don’t know why it wasn’t. The sections of those same tails that I’d used for a previous dish were rich with natural flavor. These barely tasted of meat at all. The wine, the brandy, and the spices had clearly done nothing for them, and neither meat nor seasonings did much for the sauce. The only prominent flavor was the olives, and they were unpleasantly strong and acidic. Such a pity – and the dish had looked so handsome!

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Even more’s the pity, Tom had chosen an excellent Rhône wine to accompany our meal that evening: a 2016 Cornas. The interplay of flavors should have been wonderful. Oh, well: At least we could enjoy the wine while forlornly picking at our disappointing oxtails.

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I’m writing today about the second excellent recipe I made recently from Wilma Pezzini’s The Tuscan Cookbook, which is pollo in umido con cipolla. The English name given is chicken and onion stew, but it’s really what we call now a braise.

My regular readers know that I’m inordinately fond of chicken – any kind of chicken – in which I’m indulged by my long-suffering husband, who isn’t. It was the pairing with onions that particularly attracted me to this recipe. Of my 22 previous blog posts about chicken recipes, only one of them uses onions as anything more than a small amount of aromatic vegetable. (And that one didn’t come out so well.) Also, we both love onions.

The first step in Pezzini’s recipe is to simmer sliced onions in butter and oil in a saute pan.

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Next is to take out the onions and brown pieces of chicken in the onion-flavored fat. Nice idea!
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I salted and peppered my chicken legs, returned the onions to the pan along with a tiny dried hot red pepper, and poured on half a cup of white wine.
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After 10 minutes of gentle cooking with the pan uncovered, I covered it, simmered for 5 more minutes, then stirred in half a tablespoon of tomato paste dissolved in a quarter cup of hot water. I’d also been turning the chicken legs every so often, though the recipe doesn’t say to.
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The chicken was done after another 15 minutes of almost effortless cooking, by which time the sauce had smoothed out and thickened slightly.
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Then I had to uncover the pan and cook, stirring, for a few more minutes until the sauce achieved “a jam-like consistency.” Frankly, I don’t see why some of those interim steps couldn’t have been combined, but I followed the recipe’s directions for them – at least for this first time around. And they worked very well.
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What a good dish this was! The sauce tasted surprisingly complex, considering how few ingredients it contained. The meltingly soft onions played a low-key supporting role, and the chicken legs had picked up some rich overtones of flavor from their long simmering. Even Tom agreed it was good. One more feather in this poultry fancier’s cap!

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Roast Lamb Boulangère

Last week I wrote about the emergency replacement of our gas-leaking 25-year-old rangetop. Immediately after that, we had to replace our also-25-year-old refrigerator, which had chosen that time to die in sympathy for its colleague. I’ll spare you the details and only say that we did achieve a functioning refrigerator just in time for Easter.

It wasn’t the Easter celebration we’d been anticipating before the coronavirus struck. Much earlier, I’d found an attractive lamb recipe called Gigot Boulangère in Mireille Johnston’s Burgundian cookbook, The Cuisine of the Rose. Looking forward to making it for dinner guests, I’d bought a lovely four-pound boned, rolled, and tied half-leg of lamb, and tucked it away in the freezer until needed. Alas, it had been sheltering in place there ever since.

With the prospect of any future dinner party getting increasingly distant, and with things from the nonworking freezer starting to thaw anyway, we realized it was time to do something with at least some of that lamb. So, two days in advance, we succeeded in chopping off a 1¾-pound piece from the small end of the roast for an Easter dinner for two.

Here’s the little thing, studded with slivers of garlic and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and dried thyme, ready to go into a 450° oven for an initial 20 minutes.
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Meanwhile, Tom sliced a big Spanish onion for me, which I sautéed in butter for five minutes.
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I spread the onions in the bottom of a baking dish and topped them with very thinly sliced German butterball potatoes. When the lamb’s 20 minutes were up, I transferred it to the baking dish, deglazed its original roasting pan with a little wine, poured the juices onto the lamb, and gave everything more salt and pepper.
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Back into the hot oven went the dish for an additional 30 minutes – just long enough for the potatoes to cook through.
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On slicing, the roast pretty much fell apart when its strings were cut, which was only to be expected from the way that end of the meat had had to be pared away from its bone. But it was beautifully rosy rare, just the way we like it.
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And those roasted potatoes and onions, further enriched by the lamb’s cooking juices, were absolutely beyond delicious.
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So, though our Easter dinner was much less elaborate and in a much lower key than it would normally have been, it was comforting and satisfying to us both.
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The satisfaction was helped along, I might add, by the additional Burgundian touch of a fine bottle of 2005 Morey St. Denis.

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To conclude this tale, I can’t resist a reflection on my new refrigerator. If I’d been able to see the model on display in a store, I’d have rejected it out of hand. It feels as if it’s made of tin, with an interior flimsily furnished in plastic. Obviously, one should never buy a major appliance sight unseen. But with all the stores closed now, we had to shop online, and this was the only model we could find that (a) had only the features that we wanted (e.g., no icemaker), (b) would fit into our kitchen’s tight cut-out, and (c) could get to us within a few days. We needed it, we took it, and we’re stuck with it. Sigh.

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Food writing is full of stories about beans these days. And beleaguered home-sheltering cooks seem to be paying attention. I read that the California heirloom bean supplier Rancho Gordo received more than 3,000 online orders in two days last month. None of them was from me: There are always several bags of Rancho Gordo beans in my pantry. This family likes beans, especially some of Rancho Gordo’s many varieties.

That bit of news prompted me to pull out Heirloom Beans, the Rancho Gordo cookbook written by Steve Sando (who owns the company and is himself a fanatic bean cook), and look for a new bean dish to make. I found a recipe there for our very favorite bean variety, the Santa Maria Pinquito.
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I chose to ignore the tri-tip component of the recipe, both for lack of barbecuing capability and for interest in something simpler alongside the beans. Tri-tip is a sirloin cut, so I substituted a pair of big sirloin burgers, some of which we usually have in the freezer. We shape them from the delicious, freshly ground sirloin we get from Ottomanelli, our butcher. They can taste even beefier than a steak.

My half pound of Pinquitos had been soaked overnight and were ready to cook.
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I moved them to a pot with their soaking water, plus extra cold water to cover generously, and left them to simmer for an hour while I prepared their seasonings.
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When the beans were just beginning to soften, I stirred in the chopped onion and garlic, dry mustard, Spanish smoked paprika, tomato paste, salt, and pepper, and simmered for another 45 minutes, adding small amounts of hot water as needed, until they were tender.

They came out looking plain enough . . .

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. . . but Santa Maria Pinquitos are truly great beans: They hold their shape well when cooked, are richly flavorful in their own right, and are happy to absorb additional flavors from their surroundings. Which this batch certainly did. Tom, the chile maker of the household, swears by Pinquitos for his own complex concoctions. But they’re equally a pleasure to have, as we did that evening, on an everyday dinner plate alongside the bloody rare sautéed burgers.
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That may be simple cooking, but it’s fine eating, especially alongside an eight-year-old Ridge Zinfandel.

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Am I the only devoted home cook in the western world who didn’t know there were such things as savory bread puddings? I’ve long been an enthusiast for dessert bread puddings, though I came late to the appreciation of them. But savory ones? I just made my very first.

Looking in my cookbooks for new recipes to blog about, I was struck by one for Spinach and Roquefort Bread Pudding in Nick Maglieri’s Bread. Beside looking exotic to me, it seemed to be essentially a recipe framework, with many suggestions for variations of both vegetable and cheese – even additions of meat. The cheese part especially interested me because in the refrigerator I had a fair amount of gorgonzola dolce al cucchiaio – the very soft, creamy version of that Italian blue cheese – which needed to be used.

So, after acquiring a package of frozen spinach, I set out to try a scaled-down version of the dish. Half the pack of spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry; slices of my own whole wheat sandwich loaf, cubed; the gorgonzola, milk, an egg, some minced onion, butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
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While the bread cubes were toasting briefly in a moderate oven, I sautéed the onion and spinach in the butter.
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Assuming the cheese would be Roquefort, the recipe next said to crumble it into the spinach pan and optionally add heavy cream. My gorgonzola was too soft and moist to be crumbled, but it melted down readily as a stand-in for both Roquefort and cream.

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When the bread cubes were toasted, I put them in a bowl, whisked together the milk, egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and poured it over them. The recipe actually wanted only half the milk mixture to go in at this point, with the rest left to pour onto the pudding in its baking pan. But my bread looked as if it needed more moisture, so I gave it the whole dose.
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Last, I added the spinach-cheese mixture to the bread bowl and blended everything together.
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I transferred the uncooked pudding to a buttered soufflé pan and baked it at 350° for almost an hour, until the center tested done. It was supposed to have browned on top, but mine didn’t. Perhaps it would have if I’d poured the second half of the milk mixture over the top, and it hadn’t fully soaked in, but I wanted the bread to be really soft.

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As you can see, I should’ve used a smaller pan! However, no problem: We ate the pudding for a simple supper, accompanied by sautéed red frying peppers.
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The dish was pleasant enough, though very mild. For our taste it would have been improved by a more assertive cheese or a stronger-tasting vegetable: frozen spinach doesn’t contribute much. The bright acidity of the peppers provided a very welcome contrast of flavor and texture.

But, as noted above, this recipe (which is also available online) can be a framework for the cook’s own creativity, and I may well try it with some variations in the future. There are many combinations that should make satisfying simple meals.

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At a restaurant recently I had the best simple duck breast I’ve ever eaten. The rich, rosy meat was beautifully tender. I’d given up on cooking duck breasts, delicious as they are, because mine were always uncomfortably chewy. That restaurant dish induced me to try them once more.

I often buy duck legs from Quattro’s, an excellent poultry farm with a stand at my local Greenmarket, which has continued to be active all through the winter, so this week I went there for a pair of breasts instead.
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Now to find a recipe that I couldn’t mess up! My cookbook collection didn’t offer much in the way of uncomplicated duck breast preparations, but the index of Alfred Portale’s Simple Pleasures sent me to a recipe for squab that had duck breast as a recommended variation.

A simple dish indeed it was: Its lengthy title, Pan-roasted Squab with Butter-braised Savoy Cabbage and Green Apples, names all its ingredients except salt, pepper, caraway seeds, and olive oil. I especially liked the idea of combining the duck with cabbage and apples, since they’re among the few kinds of local produce available at this time of year.

So, on to the great attempt, with hope springing anew in my breast. To start, I shredded four cups’ worth of Savoy cabbage, put it in a large sauté pan with two tablespoons of melted butter, and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and half a teaspoon of crushed caraway seeds.
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While the cabbage cooked gently for 15 minutes, I peeled, cored, and diced a large apple. The recipe called for a Granny Smith, but I had Winesaps in my fruit bowl, which are equally good for holding their shape in cooking – and once the fruit is peeled, who can tell whether the apple was green or red? I added the apple cubes to the sauté pan and cooked it for another five minutes.
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At this point the recipe wanted me to stir in one more tablespoon of butter, transfer the mixture to a serving platter, and cover it to keep warm while I cooked the duck breasts. That seemed impractical to me, and certainly not what a restaurant chef like Portale would do. So, after adding the butter I just covered the pan and moved it to the back of the stove, for brief reheating before serving. Worked just fine.

I salted, peppered, and cooked the duck breasts the way the recipe said to cook squabs: in another sauté pan over low heat in a tablespoon of olive oil; first, skin side down for six minutes, then on the other side for four minutes. That time turned out to be just right for rare meat, though not long enough to render out all the fat under the skin.
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When the duck was done, I spread a bed of the reheated cabbage and apple on each dinner plate and topped it with a breast, partially sliced open.
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The flavor combination was wonderful, all I could have wished for: a rich, intriguing mélange of meat, fruit, and vegetable sweetnesses. But – you can probably guess it – the duck itself was still pretty chewy – not tough, but definitely chewy. Curses, foiled again!

But the combined flavors were so good we didn’t care. We both have good teeth, and this time the reward fully repaid the extra jaw exercise. I’ll have to try this recipe again, leaving the duck longer over extremely gentle heat, to try to persuade its fat to rend more completely and its muscle not to clench. Whether I succeed or not – tender duck breasts, like moist pork chops, may be my Waterloo – I can be sure the result will taste just fine.

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