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Archive for the ‘Vegetable’ Category

Once again, the year-ending holiday overeating season is upon us. Brisk, chilly weather tends to make us think of rib-sticking edibles, but even so, when one festive dinner party follows another within a day or two, it can be a kindness to guests – and to herself – if a hostess includes one fairly light dish in a multi-course menu.

I have a few of those in my repertoire, and I’ve just added an interesting new one, an appropriate appetizer course for fall or winter. It’s from Alfred Portale’s book Simple Pleasures, and the recipe’s full name is Shaved Fennel, Green Apple, and Pecorino Romano Salad. The dish is indeed simple in composition: for four portions, two Granny Smith apples, two medium fennel bulbs, a lemon, and pecorino Romano cheese. (Here, I used a young pecorino Sardo.)
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However, preparing the ingredients is another story. Portale almost literally means “shaved” to apply to them all, which can be a problem to do without a specialized cutter. Here’s the book’s picture of the dish:
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See how thin the slices are? Tom is a willing and very experienced knife man, but I’d never ask him to try cutting apples and fennel that thin by hand. He’d lose either a finger or his mind.

Happily, I have a neat little vertical mandoline slicer that’s a godsend for this kind of job. I’ve sung its praises here before. It works like a tiny guillotine, and your fingers never come anywhere near the wickedly sharp blade. I forgot to take a photo of it slicing the apples and fennel, but here’s a picture from the earlier use:
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I put all the slices into a big bowl and used a microplane to grate in the zest of a lemon. With a vegetable peeler, I added a flurry of pecorino flakes, and stirred it all together, along with a big dose of a good Sorrento extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground Tellicherry pepper.
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It all came to a huge amount of salad stuff! When I chose the recipe, it hadn’t seemed as if half an apple and half a fennel bulb per person would be too much for an appetizer course, but cut that thin, they seemed to make a bushelful. I put the bowl in the refrigerator until dinnertime, then served out moderate portions, topping each plateful with more of the olive oil and some chopped feathery fennel fronds.
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It made a pretty plate, and a very tasty dish too. This was an inspired combination: crisp, tart green apple, crunchy, anisey fennel, and smooth, sharp cheese, all “married” together by the light, fruity olive oil and tangy lemon zest. We managed to eat quite a lot of it.

 

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Here’s an ingenious pasta creation: fresh spinach cooked in an aglie e olio technique and tossed with freshly cooked linguine and grated Pecorino Romano cheese; all finished with a broiled breadcrumb topping. I came across the recipe in my copy of the old Union Square Café Cookbook, liked it immediately, and made it for dinner the very next day.

BTW, this cookbook is very readable. Danny Meyer’s warm personal voice, Michael Romano’s Italian family traditions, the precise instructions, the strong support for fresh produce from the nearby Union Square Greenmarket, and my own recollections of the great restaurant in its original Greenwich Village location (mere blocks from my home) make it still a star of my cookbook collection.

I easily assembled the ingredients for the dish. The only thing I had to buy was spinach – not local, at this time of year, alas.
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Without the resources of a restaurant to draw on, I found the recipe somewhat more complicated than the simple dish of pasta aglie e olio I usually make, but it could be prepared in stages until almost the very end. Stage One was to assemble the topping. In a little dish I stirred together plain dry breadcrumbs, grated pecorino, chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and olive oil.
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Stage Two was to prepare the spinach, starting by rinsing, drying, and chopping it. I slivered three garlic cloves and simmered them over very low heat in three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
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When they had turned a very light golden color, I scooped them out of the pan, sprinkled in half a teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes, and began adding the spinach.
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I tossed and stirred the spinach in the flavored oil until it was limp, then turned off the heat and let it rest. As always, the spinach was vastly reduced in volume.
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Having prepared both spinach and crumb topping in advance, I had no more to do until dinnertime. Then, things had to start moving faster.

I boiled the linguine as usual. Just before draining it, I had to scoop out half a cup of its water, stir it into the spinach, and turn the heat back on under its pan. Then I dumped the drained pasta on top of the spinach and instantly sprinkled on two tablespoons of grated pecorino. (I’m not sure why the bare pasta needed to get the cheese so quickly, but that’s what the recipe wanted.)
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Then I had to mix the pasta thoroughly with the spinach, transfer the entire contents of the pan to a gratin dish, spread on the topping, put the dish under a preheated broiler just long enough to brown the breadcrumbs – about two minutes – and “serve immediately.”

I did all that as quickly as I could, but without the speed and discipline of professional kitchen work, my linguine was no longer piping hot by the time it made it to our plates.
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Even so, it was an excellent dish. The spinach was tender and flavorful, the garlic subdued but pervasive. The breadcrumbs provided a tiny crunch, the grated cheese a slight savory undertone, the red pepper flakes a hint of piquancy. The fruity olive oil combined all the other flavors into a luscious dressing for my good imported linguine.

With all due respect to Danny and Michael, however, I might try a few tiny changes the next time I make this dish:

  • Add a little salt to the final mixture (there was none at all but a speck in the crumb topping and a spoonful in the pasta water)
  • Heat the pan longer on the stove before the transfer to the broiler (maybe draining the pasta a bit sooner, so it finishes its cooking in the pan)
  • Just for good measure, go a bit heavier on the extra virgin olive oil.

Finally, I will say that, just as it was, the small amount of the pasta that we couldn’t finish made a very nice little frittata for a first course at dinner the next evening.

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I’ve never thought of eggplant as a vegetable that, all by itself, could serve as an appetizer course at dinner. Now I know that it can. Browsing through my current favorite Indian cookbook, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, I was struck by the headnote of an eggplant recipe making that claim. Jaffrey even suggests having it with a slice of French bread and a glass of Pinot grigio. That sounded so un-Indian! I was skeptical, but curious enough about the dish to try it.

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The eggplant in the recipe isn’t totally bare-naked, of course. It has a small supporting cast of condiments that go to make a sauce for it. Here they are:
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That’s a one-pound eggplant, surrounded by salt, sugar, cayenne, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, sliced onions, and tomato puree.

Though it took a bit of time, this was a really easy recipe to make. I cut the unpeeled eggplant lengthwise into three slabs, and the slabs into chunks.
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I heated olive oil in a large pan, put in the eggplant chunks, onions, fennel and cumin seeds, and sauteed it all over fairly high heat for five minutes.
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Next, I added the tomato puree, salt, sugar, cayenne, and some water.
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The pan – brought to a boil, reduced to a simmer, and covered – then cooked gently until the eggplant was very tender. I stirred and turned over the chunks several times during the cooking, and my fresh, young eggplant was ready in 20 minutes. (The recipe had thought it would take 30 to 35 minutes; always good to check early!) I uncovered the pan, reduced the sauce just a bit, and the dish was ready to eat.
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The cooked eggplant didn’t look like a lot, considering it was to serve four to six, and we were only two. But each chunk made a nice mouthful, subtly flavored with the fennel and cumin. Except for a small mishap: I must not have sprinkled on the cayenne evenly, because a few of the chunks were eye-wateringly hot! The others were only judiciously spicy, and very pleasing.

The dish as a whole was quite filling. Crusty bread was definitely wanted for sopping up the sauce. And, in place of Jaffrey’s Pinot grigio, we found the eggplant went very well with a chilled Lugana, a crisply mineral white wine from Italy’s Lake Garda region.

In fact, we couldn’t finish all the eggplant, but when I reheated what was left for my lunch the next day, I think it was even better!

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“You have to have grown up in Jersey City to understand veal and peppers.” So says my husband, semiseriously (I think!) – who did and does. Heaps of ripe peppers on our favorite Greenmarket farmstand this week reminded Tom that it had been a while since he’d made his long-loved Italian-American dish for us. There was no objection from me!
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Normally, the meat he uses is veal shoulder. In the freezer we had two pounds of boneless veal breast: extras trimmed off a large piece that I’d recently stuffed and roasted for a small dinner party. Would those do? The answer was yes.

“I never knew what cut they used for veal and peppers at the stevedores’ bar where I always ate lunch, that summer when I worked the loading platforms in Port Newark, but it was always delicious. I see no reason our veal breast shouldn’t do just as well.”
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The thin slabs of meat had a large amount of fat, fell, and connective tissue. In long roasting, such excrescences soften or melt on their own. Here, they’d have to be painstakingly stripped away. But Tom has admirable patience for close, delicate work like this, and he managed to produce a bit more than a pound of relatively clean strips of veal.
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He set the pieces to brown in a pan with olive oil, softened some chopped onion with it for five minutes, then added fresh sage leaves, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
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After stirring everything together for a few minutes he poured in a cup of his homemade mixed-meat-and-vegetable broth and a generous quarter cup of red wine. At that point he’d usually add a few tablespoons of tomato sauce too, but this day he decided to substitute a chopped San Marzano plum tomato, since we had some nice ripe ones on hand.
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Covered, the pan simmered for about two hours. I was deputized to stir it occasionally, to make sure it wasn’t cooking too fast or not at all. Meanwhile, Tom cleaned and cut up three big frying peppers. He likes red ones when they’re available, because they’re sweeter and less acidic than the greens. But greens can be OK too.

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Once the peppers were in the pan, it had a final half hour of simmering and sending out tantalizing aromas. By then, both the veal and the peppers were meltingly tender, and our dinner was ready.
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The only other thing we needed at the table was a big crusty loaf of bread, to sop up the delicious sauce. And wine, of course: Tom chose a 2020 Lacrima Christi from Mastroberardino, the red version rather than the white, for parallel-to-the-peppers reasons: The soft fruit of the red Piedirosso grapes would match the dish better than the acidity of white grapes would have – though he admits that on another day, or if he had used more green peppers, his choice might have gone the other way. “Both wines, red and white, are great with simple, savory dishes like veal and peppers,” he says.

The evening’s dish, by the way, was great, and we did full justice to it. The delicate flavors of the veal and the vegetal sweetness of the peppers came together beautifully from their long simmering in broth, tomato, and red wine. I – who didn’t grow up in New Jersey – was just as happy with it as Tom was.

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Just enough left for a hero sandwich for the next day’s lunch

 

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In my younger, overweight years, when I obsessively counted calories, I considered avocados temptations of the devil, a dietary death trap. Might as well eat a stick of butter, I’d say to myself. Not true, of course. Avocados are rich with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Even knowing that now, enjoying a luscious avocado still feels sneakily sinful.

I do it, though. Mostly as guacamole, or in nachos, from recipes in my Mexican cookbooks. This week I tried something different from an unlikely source: Elizabeth Schneider’s Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini. Unlikely because avocados are not a vegetable but a fruit (botanically, actually a berry), but in the culinary context they do occupy much the same ecological niche as vegetables.

Schneider presents her avocado “mayonnaise” enthusiastically:

A satiny sauce, the color of pistachio cream, to dress chilled salmon, shrimp, or white fish fillets. Or spoon dollops over asparagus, snap beans, or even corn on the cob – messy but yummy. Or garnish chilled soups with the pretty topping. . . . Scoop into a pita and add sprouts. Offer as a dip on a vegetable platter.

All that sounded great, so I put together the ingredients for a small batch. In the rear of the photo below, half a cup of buttermilk, sugar, lime juice, and salt; in front, an avocado (a little squished because it didn’t want to let go of its pit), a scallion (my substitution for chives), and a few leaves of basil.
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I chunked the avocado, minced the herbs, and stirred sugar, salt, and pepper into two tablespoons of lime juice.
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All the ingredients were to be pureed in a food processor, which was something of a problem in this case. My mini food processor was too small to handle that quantity, and my full-size processor would have merely pasted the ingredients around the sides of the bowl. I settled for a blender. Even that needed a lot of persuasion to produce a puree, but eventually it did.
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Its taste was interesting. While the basil and scallion weren’t really noticeable, the sweet acidity of the lime juice and the light sourness of the buttermilk had given an intriguing tang to the rich, buttery avocado flesh. The texture was indeed mayonnaise-y. I was eager to see how it would work with different foods.
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My first experiment was to smear dollops of avocado mayonnaise onto corn on the cob.

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Messy to eat it certainly was – especially for Tom, a man with a mustache: a few bites and he looked rabid. Yummy? I’d have to say, not so much. That is, the fresh, sweet corn was excellent in itself, and the avocado sauce was – just itself. The two components didn’t say much to each other; in a way, they clashed a bit.

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Still hopeful, the next day I tried the sauce with a few chilled, boiled shrimp for a small appetizer.

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That was a much better marriage of flavors. The shrimps sort of blossomed under the sauce, rather than just coexisting with it, as the corn did. I could see enjoying this combination again some time.

Still, this sauce isn’t a condiment I’d want often: from what I’ve seen so far, the insistence of its presence tries to override whatever else it’s served with. Avocado is delicious in itself, and it welcomes the strong, spicy flavors of Latin American cooking. I could probably be content staying with treats of that kind.

But Elizabeth Schneider has planted a seed, and other possible uses for her mayonnaise keep popping into my head. I wonder if that tree where Eve met the serpent might not have been an apple but an avocado.

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Even with the mercy of air conditioning, this summer’s heat wave has strongly curbed my enthusiasm for spending very much time at the stove and oven. Still, the appetite needs to be piqued and the animal needs to be fed. So: “light, simple, and tasty” is my current mantra.

I found an appealing recipe for a Tuscan dish of white beans and shrimp in Faith Willinger’s cookbook Red, White & Greens. All it calls for, in addition to the two named items, are tomatoes, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Praising it highly when made with the freshest ingredients, Willinger says it can also work with canned beans and frozen shrimp, for convenience.

Tempting as that was, I couldn’t bring myself to take the entirely easiest route: I like to cook dried beans myself. However, the only white beans I had in the pantry – marrow beans, which I really love – were getting pretty old, and I feared they’d have lost too much flavor to shine in so simple a preparation.

So I chopped a little carrot, onion, and parsley, and softened the mixture in olive oil. As soon as the beans had finished boiling, I drained them, folded them into that vegetable soffrito, and left it all to insaporate for a few hours. (That’s not an English word, I know. The Italian word insaporire is such an apt description of how flavors blend, I’ve taken it as my own.)
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The rest of the preparation was of the simplest. I washed a handful of cherry tomatoes, from my Greenmarket, and a few basil leaves, from the herb planter I keep on my building’s roof. I briefly boiled a quarter pound of shrimp – from my freezer, as permitted.
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I chopped the tomatoes and basil, cut up the shrimp, and tossed them together with the beans, olive oil, salt, and pepper. It always surprises me how well white beans partner with seafood – not just shrimp, as here, but also in the Tuscan classic bean-and-tuna combination and even, as I’ve written about once – in a stew with clams.
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This hearty salad was excellent as a first course for our dinner and would have made a very nice lunch on its own. We ate it at room temperature, but we could see it would be equally good with both shrimp and beans still warm.

I was sorry that my marrow beans were past their best. The insaporation did help them, but I discarded the ones still left in my pantry. When I make this again I’ll be sure to use newer beans and the freshest shrimps I can lay my hands on. Exactly because the dish is so “light, simple, and tasty,” it really deserves the best components. It almost – almost – made me appreciate the heat wave.

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I’ve just discovered an attractive new recipe for fresh egg pasta, unlike anything I’ve made before. That was surprise enough, given how many years I’ve been cooking pasta, but the dish has a number of virtues. It’s quick and easy, lush and creamy, lively and cheerful. Quite pretty too, with a springlike light green sauce.

The recipe, called Fettuccine with Ricotta and Crushed Peas, is from The Italian Vegetable Book, by Michele Scicolone. Written to serve eight, the recipe was easy to scale down. I had no fettuccine on hand, so I substituted pappardelle, wider strips of egg pasta: four ounces for two first-course portions. The other ingredients were ¼ cup of fresh ricotta, ¼ cup of green peas, ¼ cup of grated Parmigiano, and 2 tablespoons of chopped scallion.
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The recipe actually specifies frozen peas – nice for when it’s not fresh pea season, though I imagine fresh ones would work just as well. I boiled these small, sweet imported Italian peas for just one minute.
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I scooped them out of the water (which I saved for cooking the pasta), patted them dry, and put them in my mini food processor, along with the scallions.
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The little machine doesn’t have enough power to fully puree the peas, but it crushed them thoroughly enough. Next I added the ricotta, salt, and pepper.
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The combination whipped into a thick, nubbly cream. That was the sauce.
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When we were ready to eat, I brought the pot of water back to a boil and cooked the pappardelle. Saving a little of the water in case it was needed to thin the sauce, I drained the pasta, quickly returned it to the empty pot, and stirred in all the sauce. It did need a bit of extra water to coat the pappardelle smoothly.
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I divided the pasta between two warmed bowls and topped each with the grated Parmigiano and freshly ground black pepper. Delicious!
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Here is a very nice dish for a warm winter lunch or a simple, light supper, which I made from a recipe in chef/restaurateur Tom Colicchio’s book Think Like a Chef. I’ll have some things to say about the book later in this post; first, I want to show you how I made the dish.
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For a half recipe’s worth, I used the white part of one very large, fat leek, four small, unpeeled German butterball potatoes, and two ounces of slab bacon. Other than a little spicing, that’s all there is to it.
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Bravely eschewing the services of my bespoke knife man, I cut up all those ingredients myself. This entailed some decision making, as will be explained below.
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In a big cast-iron skillet, I heated extra-virgin olive oil. Though I very rarely use extra-virgin oil to cook in, I felt the few but significant flavors in the dish deserved it this time. Into the pan went the potatoes, leeks, bacon, salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme.
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I cooked the mélange, turning everything frequently, for about 15 minutes, until the bacon began to render and the leeks began to brown. Then I transferred the pan to a 350° oven and roasted it, turning everything occasionally, until the potatoes were tender. The recipe said this was to take 15 minutes; mine took about 30.
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Those three simple flavors were a marriage made in heaven. In the mouth, they didn’t exactly blend, but they seemed to accentuate each other’s savoriness. (That’s umami, I guess?) Whatever, I could eat this dish every week! For a bit of lily gilding, next time I may top it with poached or fried eggs.

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Now, about Colicchio’s book. The man is a brilliant chef, and I’ve enjoyed many dishes at his restaurants, as well as from this book. His “think like a chef” concept urges you to consider different foods and cooking techniques, how they go together, and what can be made of them. Those parts of the book are interesting and thought-provoking. He also wants to free his readers from feeling that they must follow a recipe exactly.

But the book’s weakness is in the recipes it provides. The author often seems not to realize what amateurs need to have specified. For instance, the potatoes in this recipe: If he expects the dish to be ready after 15 minutes in the oven, how thick should I have sliced the potatoes? He doesn’t say.

And the leek: There are huge variations in leeks’ thickness and length, as well as in the proportion of green to white parts. When he says to prepare the leek whites by quartering them lengthwise, is he expecting them to be 6-inch lengths? 8-inches? Mine would have been closer to 10 inches – which I think would have been unpleasantly stringy when cooked. Not even thinking that I was thinking like a chef, I cut them quite a bit shorter.

It’s fine and fun to try to think like a chef, but it would be nice if Colicchio had thought a little more like a hopeful new cook. Many of us can figure things out on our own, but beginning cooks need complete, consistent instructions; and even experienced cooks appreciate them.

Furthermore, when I’m trying a new recipe, I like to learn the effect its creator originally intended, before I think about putting my own slant on it. Professional chefs, with years of experience, make such judgments easily and quickly. We home cooks have a tougher time of it.

End of gripe: Whew! I feel better for getting that off my chest.

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Certain dishes we enjoy in our house are Tom’s own specialties: dishes he makes not by following a recipe (as I mostly do) but by instinct, based on recollections of ones he’s had in the past. One of his best is choucroute garnie, that hearty Alsace dish of sauerkraut braised with fresh and smoked pork products.

No two of Tom’s choucroutes are ever quite the same, but all are well worth eating. His most recent one was made to showcase a special bottle of Alsace Pinot gris he’d be writing up for his blog. On that occasion, I joined him in the kitchen with pencil, pad, and camera to immortalize the event.

From our excellent local Ukrainian butcher shop he’d bought a quart of sauerkraut fresh from the barrel and a selection of meats – which, this time, were spareribs, kielbasa, slab bacon, and knackwurst.
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He started by soaking the kraut in a strainer set in a large bowl of cold water for about 45 minutes.
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While it was soaking, and without measuring, he chopped about ¾ cup onion, ½ cup celery and ⅓ cup carrot.
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In a large ovenproof casserole, he melted a few tablespoons of bacon fat and browned the spareribs in it.
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Removing them to a plate, he also very lightly browned and removed the chunk of bacon, put in all the vegetables, sprinkled on salt and pepper, and added a slosh of olive oil, since he felt he’d been too sparing of the bacon fat.
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After a minute of stirring, he covered the pot and cooked it gently until the vegetables were softened. Then I stepped into the role of chef’s assistant. I lifted the sauerkraut-filled strainer out of the bowl, dumped out the water, and, a small handful at a time, squeezed the kraut as dry as I could.
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Tom took the kraut and mixed it into the pot with the vegetables, separating all the little lumps to get as much of the kraut as possible in touch with the fats.
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He then added (prosaically measured by his assistant) ½ cup of white wine, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and 2 cups of his homemade broth; and nestled the bacon into the kraut.
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He covered the pot and baked it in a 325° oven for half an hour. Added the spareribs, reduced the heat to 300°, and cooked for an hour and a half. Added the piece of kielbasa and cooked for half an hour. Added the knackwursts and cooked for 10 minutes, just to heat them through. And served.
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The choucroute was luscious, as always, the kraut moist and flavorful, the meat falling off the rib bones, the bacon soft and enticing, the knacks (though they’d split open) and the kielbasa plump and appealing. The whole ensemble also matched beautifully with the evening’s special bottle of wine: a 2001 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personelle. You can read about the wine in Tom’s blog.

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One day this week, I felt like a change from our usual everyday dinner format of a small first course followed by a larger main course. Aiming for variety and simultaneity, I put together a modest spread of Spanish-style tapas that Tom and I could graze on while enjoying a good bottle of Rioja wine.
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To anchor the meal, I made two new-to-me recipes from Penelope Casas’s Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain. There’s a revised and expanded edition of this excellent book, but my large, well-thumbed, original 1985 paperback still provides plenty of scope for trying out new dishes, as well as revisiting favorites.
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Chickpeas in Onion Sauce
Garbanzos con Cebolla

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This was a simple, very tasty concoction. I soaked four ounces of dried chickpeas overnight, and the next day put them in fresh water with a clove of garlic, a slice of onion, and a bay leaf and simmered until the peas were tender. They must have been from a very fresh batch of chickpeas, for they took only an hour.

Separately I briefly sauteed a chopped onion in olive oil, stirred in two tablespoons of chopped tomato, covered the pan, and cooked gently until the onions were very soft. (Happily, this winter my grocery stores are carrying truly ripe tomatoes from Mexico.) I stirred this mixture into the cooked chickpeas and left them at the back of the stove, to be rewarmed at dinner time. Excellent! Really, chickpeas are an undervalued resource.
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Chorizo with Pimientos
Chorizo Café San Martin

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This dish wasn’t as good as the first, but I can’t blame the recipe. I had two fresh chorizos in my freezer that it was time to use. The recipe wanted firm, cured chorizo, to be cut in ¼-inch slices for an initial browning. My sausages were uncured and too soft to slice, so I crumbled them into a pan with olive oil. When the meat was fully cooked, I deglazed the pan with red wine and stirred in strips of a roasted red pepper (also from my freezer), a tablespoon of chopped parsley, and a minced clove of garlic.

For the final cooking, I put the mixture in an oiled earthenware dish, covered it tightly with foil, and baked it at 350° for 15 minutes. (That was a simplification of the recipe’s saying to encase the food in foil, bake the packet in the dish, and open the foil only at table.) It was pleasant enough, but not as lively as it would have been with the right kind of chorizos. I should have at least seasoned the meat with more pimentón.
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Toasted Bread with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Fresh Tomato
Pan con Tomate

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Pan con Tomate
is a much-loved tapa everywhere in Spain. Most often it’s served as slices of toast thickly spread with a puree of tomatoes seasoned with garlic, sea salt, and the best available olive oil. I prefer a lighter version, which is also simpler to make.

I toast split lengths of crusty bread; rub them well, first with the cut face of a clove of garlic, then with the cut face of a tomato, so the bread captures a bit of the flesh and absorbs juice; and finish with a sprinkle of salt and a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. The crunch makes a good textural companion with softer tapas, while the simple, direct flavors work happily with everything.
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Raw Fennel with Spicy Mayonnaise

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I don’t know whether this is an actual Spanish tapa, but I think it qualifies as Spanish-style, at least. I flavored mayonnaise with lemon juice and pimentón and served it as a dip for spears of raw fennel. In Spain the mayonnaise would have been aioli, of course. But my smoked paprika gave the Hellman’s a Hispanic touch, and the fennel spears were crisp and refreshing.
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“Hispanified” Barbecued Spareribs

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This is definitely not an actual Spanish tapa. The evening before, Tom and I had dined at a neighborhood restaurant and brought home the uneaten half of an enormous portion of barbecued spareribs. Because the barbecue sauce had been quite sweet, he slathered the ribs with a mixture of mustard, Worcestershire, and Cholula, wrapped them in foil, and reheated them in the oven. Though there was nothing notably Spanish about the result, the ribs made a useful contribution to our eclectic dinner of tapas.
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The Evening’s Wine

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I asked Tom to add a few words about our bottle of Rioja.

A dinner like this, of varied flavors, will work best with a wine of some complexity that can play catch with all those different accents. I thought a fine Rioja with a bit of bottle age would do the job, and 2008 Viña Tondonia proved us right. At age 13 it was just entering adulthood and showed a nice medley of fresh fruit and mature vinous flavors. Riojas are great, adaptable wines, and Tondonia is one of the finest.

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