merle, my loved and adored burmese kitty: february 1, 1994 – december 25, 2008
happy new year. it’s been so seemingly long now since i’ve written that i barely know where to begin except to say that i’ve thought of you. often. like every time i cooked or ate i’d think – i’m a food blogger and i should be telling somebody something about this. and then i’d go watch a movie.
but first of all, thanks for supporting ‘menu for hope V‘ and for bidding on the mullet roe from ‘rk’s black hammock smokehouse’. the total worldwide effort raised over $60k which will make a real difference in the lives of so many african children. or it could buy me the bmw i’ve had my eye on. you decide. anyway, i hope that a ceF reader wins the mullet roe because then you’ll finally understand just what i’ve been going on and on about regarding this esoteric florida delicacy.
and please note that i truly believe that you are all more than worthy of this amazing foodstuff and i can assure you that if i were empress there’d be mullet roe sacs for each and every one of you. because that it the kind of empress i would be. and if being empress were an electable position, smoked mullet roe and bottarga would be my platform, and my campaign slogan would be "smoke fish eggs, not your enemy" or "more sacs, less tax". granted, the concept needs tons of work. but i would totally be there for you in this way.
and thanksgiving in december was finally celebrated on ny’s eve. and after i read through every suggestion that you left in the comments, we took it all to heart and as many of you suggested, opted for sheer simplicity. we kept the food close to the ground with few ingredients. i roasted 2 chickens using the infallible zuni café method of salting smaller sized birds and covering loosely in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, then hitting them with a very high heat for about 50 minutes. the result – crisp skin and moist meat every time. i baked a simple cornbread using olive oil and made the stuffing using that and chicken sausage, red onions, garlic, celery, sage and veal stock. i also caramelized some brussels sprouts in a heavy skillet and hit them with a balsamic glaze and then roasted some sweet potatoes in nothing more than olive oil and salt. the cranberry sauce had fresh orange zest along with the juice, just a bit of brown sugar and a cinnamon stick.
at dinner, santos toasted to his beautiful wife rudrani, recognizing the auspicious evening and upcoming year with an excellent bottle of tattinger’s and we ate our dinner with a bottle of cotes du rhone. we felt grateful to not only be alive – but together, looking forward to the best year of our lives, if only because it is the one we will be living.
and being the exciting people that we are, cary and i were in bed at 11:30pm and flicked on the tv to watch all the festivities in nyc and do the whole pretend countdown (we’re on central time) and DID ANYONE ELSE SEE DICK CLARK AND GET FREAKED THE HELL OUT? it was, shall we say, NOT GOOD. it wasn’t the slurring due to the stroke it was "the face". he looked like he had died 2 days before and was embalmed, then put in full make-up and propped up in a chair. NOT GOOD. we both got the willies and quickly changed the channel. so much for going out with grace… i think much of america collectively gasped when they saw him. it kind of broke my heart.
and there was actually some food worth mentioning that happened to get cooked and then photographed in my kitchen during the tail end of ’08. so i thought i’d purge what was left in my files and hit you with it all at once in the name of starting fresh and not being wasteful.
this first dish, which i’ve now made perhaps 4x and have neglected to mention it to you, dear readers, is a smashing thing to eat. it’s a total wow and you need to make this one soon. grilled haloumi with caramelized fennel. oh. my.
just grill the fennel in some olive oil until it caramelizes, toss it with chopped italian parsley and spritz with lemon. then top it with the grilled halloumi. it is so much better than you might imagine it to be. so even if you are sitting there thinking, "no – i get it. that would be excellent", then you go and make it and it’s like crazy good and everyone thinks you are a brilliant cook and talks about you for days on end. i saw this dish on an australian blog called souvlaki for the soul. besides his beautiful food, the guy is a serious photographer. anyway, you heard it here second. now go make this.
jennifer? i told you i was going to make this and i did. and then i bought the book because ‘sunday suppers at lucques‘ by suzanne goin is most definitely a must own. and romesco is a must have in your repertoire. it works with nearly everything and although i’ve no recollection what fish this was, it was an excellent accompaniment to the romesco along with steamed broccoli.
from ‘sunday suppers at lucques’ by suzanne goin
5 ancho chiles
2 T raw almonds
2T blanched hazelnuts
1 ¼ c extra virgin olive oil
1 slice country bread, about 1 inch thick
1/3 cup canned san marzano tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 T chopped flat leaf parsley
½ lemon for juicing
preheat the oven to 375. soak the chiles in hot water for about 15 minutes, then seed and stem them. spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them for 8-10 minutes. remove from the oven and set aside. fry the bread in a bit of the olive oil, then let it cool and cut into cubes. return the pan to the stove, heat the chiles for about 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes. cook them until they break down and the juices are reduced, then turn off the heat and set aside.
pulse the nuts, bread and garlic in a food processor, then add the chile and tomato mixture and pulse again to combine. pour in more olive oil while the machine is running until you have the texture you want. taste for seasoning, then stir in the lemon juice and parsley.
ok. i know. not beautiful. but i am so incredibly proud of what’s going on in that bowl you just couldn’t know. you see, peter and heather are constantly cooking all these amazing asian dishes filled with mysterious ingredients to the point where i personally find it to be borderline between annoying and inferiority complex causing. my problem? i’d say so. but a few weeks ago i whipped up this little number using only what i had on hand. undoubtedly a red bell pepper would have come in handy along with some bamboo shoots or something else with color but it tasted pretty damn good and it contained the following, in no particular order:
raw chicken breast
a chopped shallot
fresh rice noodles – sold refrigerated in the vacuum sealed bag
my poultry stock
never to be duplicated, but again, it was a proud moment – especially since there is no chinese food in nashville worthy of buying unless you count ‘pf changs’. sad but true.
presenting, farinata – a thin chickpea pancake/pizza like thing that’s pretty popular in liguria. i saw farinata mentioned somewhere and then i found this recipe on the food & wine website – and well it’s very much my kind of food. yes yes, i scorched the top a bit with my broiler but really it was no big deal – just a very surface ring of black. you basically mix garbanzo flour and water and let it sit for a couple of hours. then you preheat the oven to 500f, skim any foam off the batter and add salt, rosemary (i think i used sage) and olive oil. then heat a cast iron skillet in the oven for 10 minutes, add some olive oil to the pan, add the batter and bake. again, i made the mistake of deciding to brown the top a bit more and i took my eye off the oven…
but there were no complaints and it went fast…
this was from the ‘king arthur flour whole grain baking‘ book. i’m pretty sure this recipe called for peaches but i loaded it up with 3 pears being that i had just bought a huge box of them to support a friends daughter school choir. great idea… so much better than gift wrapping or magazines. anyway, i lowered the amount of sugar the recipe called for and well, cary ate the entire loaf in one day.
vegetables on brown basmati rice. exciting, i know. please try and contain yourselves. but for the record we’ve got brussels sprouts, carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli and some lovely briney olives lightly sauteed in olive oil and finished with a balsamic glaze. and i must tell you, it was quite delicious. and since i took a picture of it, i felt the need to share. because not only am i needy that way, but also because the rice had the perfect bite and the vegetables were cooked to that crisp but not overdone finish. i got lucky on this one. it was a moment in time where all the planets aligned just so, and the vegetable gods smiled down upon me. and i was grateful and appreciative and all those things that the vegetable gods expect one to be.
scarlett runners from rancho gordo dusted with espelette. there’s some pan fried tilapia back there with a spicy green olive tapenade on top. but the beans and the espelette were seriously good. and even more seriously basque.
but regarding the espelette… like if ever you were to get some? think eggs. scrambled, deviled, fried or perhaps just one orange egg yolk sitting atop a small mound of sheeps milk ricotta mixed with a bit of orange zest, sprinkled with this extraordinary pepper and then tucked carefully between 2 sheets of thin pasta…. yes. think that.
so dear readers, for the record – my personal ‘o9 resolution is to lean down both physically and financially. and i’m heading in that direction, yes i am. and there’ll be more on that later.
and although i may be 4 days late, allow me to raise my virtual glass to you. here’s to a kinder, gentler new year…