Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dawn Landes - Young Folks (bluegrass style)

Sunday morning. What sweetness is this -

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Foodish Poem Love

She's such a master. You already know this if you read Plague of the Doves.

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.

Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator

and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.

Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.

Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.

Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.

Don't even sew on a button.

Let the wind have its way, then the earth

that invades as dust and then the dead

foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.

Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.

Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles

or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry

who uses whose toothbrush or if anything

matches, at all.

Except one word to another. Or a thought.

Pursue the authentic-decide first

what is authentic,

then go after it with all your heart.

Your heart, that place

you don't even think of cleaning out.

That closet stuffed with savage mementos.

Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth

or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner

again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,

or weep over anything at all that breaks.

Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons

in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life

and talk to the dead

who drift in though the screened windows, who collect

patiently on the tops of food jars and books.

Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything

except what destroys

the insulation between yourself and your experience

or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters

this ruse you call necessity.

-Louise Erdrich

Sunday, November 8, 2009

From the Menu: Chestnut, Farro and Kabocha Squash Soup

Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of the River Cafe continually inspire me. I especially love their rough soups. Most puréed food seems silly to me anymore, although I understand its kid-appeal. And even when I do go that route - for intense amalgamated flavor - I'll add texture back to what I'm making by finishing it with big chunky bits of whatever is in it, and/or rough-cut herbs, little buttery croutons, crisped cured pork. I want to feel the shape of what I’m eating.

I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly. Crumbly, dense kabocha squash is a favorite, so I’ve substituted it for the onion pumpkin called for. I crave the dark smoky heat of chilies de arbol, so I've used them specifically and have upped the ante... be careful here. And, as all I had in the house one evening was guanciale (cured pork cheeks), I used it for the pancetta and it was wonderful, too. Try it if you have some. Sage also works beautifully for the rosemary, and to me the dish begs for a hard, nutty cheese like parmesan.

Chestnut, Farro and Kabocha Squash Soup

1- 1/2 pounds fresh chestnuts
2 pounds (one smallish) Kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, cut into
1-inch cubes
6 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 cup farro
8 oz pancetta or guanciale, cut into lardons
2 medium red or yellow onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then in
1/4-inch slices lengthwise
1 whole head celery, washed well, dried, and cut into 1/4 -inch
diagonals widthwise (save the leaves for finishing the soup)
6 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
3 mediumchilies de arbol, or other dried chilie, seeded and crumbled (use less if you don't like much heat)
2 teaspoons sage or rosemary leaves, roughly chopped, about 1 stem
5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
Virgin olive oil to finish
2 oz. Parmesan (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly score an x into chestnut shells on the flat side, trying not to cut into the nut meat too much. Spread them on a sheet pan and roast 20 to 30 minutes until the shells curl away from the nut. Cool, peel and roughly slice. Set aside. Toss squash with 3 tablespoons olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper and the brown sugar. Spread on a sheet pan and roast until fully tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside. Place the farro in a small pot and cover with water by an inch. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes until al dente. Remove from water and spread out on a plate to cool.

In a large, lined pot big enough to hold the soup heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and sauté pancetta until rendered and lightly browned. Add onions, celery, a good pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, chilies and rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the chestnuts and the squash and cook for 5 minutes. Add the farro and cover with stock by 1-inch (add water if necessary). Simmer about 15 minutes. The squash should melt partially into the soup, making it lusciously orange, yet still remain in chunks. Taste and season if necessary with more salt and pepper. Serve in warm soup bowls with a drizzle of virgin olive oil, celery leaves and shaved parmesan.


The amount of celery in the recipe - a whole bunch - is surprising, but its peppery green presence is pure counterpoint to the soup’s sweet richness. Also, in her brilliant Cucina del Sole, Nancy Harmon Jenkins points out that the celery in Italy is a much rougher affair than ours - so don’t be afraid to use all the seemingly tough outer stalks, too, as it is entirely authentic.

The soup is also completely delicious in vegetarian mode: hold the cured meat, add a tad more oil to cook the vegetables, then bring it all together with vegetable stock or water.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

On the Menu: Grilled Salmon, Shaved Beets, Little Carrots, Radishes and Fennel with Couscous, Scallions and Ginger-Soy Mayonnaise

We can't get enough of this dish which is all about raw, clean freshness.

It's a bed of shaved uncooked vegetables with room-temp couscous, warm salmon and lightly spiced mayo. Fallish, only SF style... meant for our long-boy summers. Citrus, coriander and ginger give it mega legs.

Grilled Salmon, Shaved Beets, Little Carrots, Radishes and Fennel with Couscous, Scallions and Ginger-Soy Mayonnaise (for 6)

This recipe has several parts, but is well worth it. You can make both sauces a day ahead of time if you’d like. Also, to simplify a bit, I've used instant couscous (which is a cinch), and canned chickpeas. The couscous is still very delicious...

Fire-up your grill for the salmon

Couscous with Scallions and Chickpeas

1 cup instant couscous

Sea salt

1 cup water or chicken stock

1/4 cup virgin olive oil

1 lemon, zest and juice

1/2 cup chickpeas, canned

3 scallions, cleaned, whites and greens, cut thinly on the diagonal

Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Bring stock or water to the boil with a good pinch of salt. Pour over the couscous and cover with foil. Let it sit for about 20 minutes. Uncover and drizzle the couscous with olive oil and fluff it with a fork. Stir in the lemon zest, juice, chickpeas and scallions. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. Set aside.

Shaved Salad

1 small chioggia beet

1 small gold beet

2 small colorful carrots, heirlooms are great, washed, leave 1/4-inch stem still


2 radishes, French Breakfast or Easter Egg if possible, washed with 1/4 -inch of

their stem still attached

1 small head of fennel

1 head frisÉe, cleaned, for about 2 cups

Shave beets, carrots, radishes and fennel on a mandolin (or cut as thinly as possible with a knife). Set aside.

Tangerine-Coriander-Ginger Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon sherry or Banyuls vinegar

1 tangerine, fine zest and 2 tablespoons of its squeezed juice

1 small knob of ginger, peeled and grated for 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon coriander seed, toasted and ground

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup virgin oil

In a small metal bowl whisk vinegar, tangerine zest, juice, ginger and coriander seed with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. It should be very bright and well seasoned. Set aside.

Ginger-Soy Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk

1 small lemon, zest and 1 teaspoon squeezed juice

Sea salt

1 cup olive oil

1 small knob ginger, peeled and grated for 1 tablespoon

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

a pinch of sugar

In a small metal bowl whisk the egg yolk with the lemon zest, juice and a small pinch of salt. Slowly drizzle in oil, about a tablespoon at a time, until you have a creamy emulsion. Whisk in ginger, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Taste and add more salt if needed and/or a pinch of sugar for brightness. Set aside.

To Assemble

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

6 salmon filets, about 3/4-inch thick, preferably wild and local

3 tablespoons olive oil

Shaved Vegetables

Tangerine Vinaigrette



Brush the salmon filets with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper both sides. Grill about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t overcook as the salmon is best medium rare and bright pink in the center. Set aside on a plate, lightly covered with foil.

In a medium bowl toss the shaved vegetables and frisÉe with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Taste and salt if necessary. Put a large handful of the salad in the center of each plate. Put about a half cup of the couscous on top of the salad. Lay a salmon filet on top of the couscous and spoon two to three tablespoons of the mayonnaise over the salmon.


Hot tea towels? Well yes. Our pal - SF designer Christina Weber - is making them with a troop of neighborhood artists through her new
Studiopatró or pattern studio. She's put serious time into this natty project, and it's finally here.

Her designs are low-key and ravishing: leafy, organic, modern - all of it in a super dreamy palate. My personal favorite is dotted with spunky little peace signs (can you ever get too many of these?). They have swanky weight which gets more beauteous with using, washing, little emerging tears. They're hand-screened and eco-friendly to boot.

Chris envisions all kinds of alternative uses for them, too. They are excellent camouflage, flower swaddlers, pillow sheaths, gift enclosures. Not much they won't do. She's also designed one very cool apron.

So do I really need to say it with the holidays looming? Check-out this very sweet thing.