What We Cooked Last Week: October 26 – November 1, 2015
Monday: No-Mad Bar Veggie Burger with Piquillo Aioli, Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Tuesday: Legume Restaurant in Oakland, celebrating Beez survival of the AACI annual meeting marathon (see below or click on the “ Restaurants” tab for a quick review of the place).
Wednesday: Beats me! (I’m having a new memory chip put in next Thursday).
Thursday: Dunnings Meeting
Friday: Julie’s Halloween Party
Saturday: Near-Niçoise with Swordfish steak
Sunday: Crostini with basil/parmigiana salsa, Bolognese della Nonna, Salad
Sometimes, not finding the ingredient you want paves the way to a new dish, as happened last Saturday when we invented near-Nicoise with grilled swordfish. The reason for having only a salad on Saturday was the grand Halloween feast at Julie Stoecklein’s house the night before. I should note that the male guests were lucky to be invited to this pink parka/pink putter gathering. Julie is a truly creative person and cook, and made the most beautiful antipasta we’ve seen outside the pages of Bon Appetit, as well as a savory chicken pot-pie served in pumpkins (see pictures above). Well, since the antipasta was Greek, I suppose you would have to call it prin zymarika –Julie had just been on a trip to Greece with her son, Hunter. I hereby beg Julie to share some of her recipes with the group – I will pay her for the hummus, which was spectacular.
Now here is how we (Beez and I) came up with a recipe that you need to try if you like salad or fish or Nice or just being alive.
So there I was at Whole Foods on Saturday afternoon, getting the ingredients for a new Bolognese we planned to cook ahead for Sunday dinner and some tuna for a light salad we planned for that night. The fish monger (the one with the ear-rings only, not the one with the ear-plugs and the tattoos) looked apologetic as he explained that they had been “having trouble with our tuna supplier – we didn’t get a shipment today”). I made a quick calculation that swordfish might be a passable substitute – I did not want to change the menu since the real focus would be to cook and fiddle with the Ragu for Sunday (about 2 hours-worth of stirring and watching).
The basic near-Niçoise recipe is from Julia and Jacque’s Cooking at Home and involves tossing some nice greens with sliced scallions, diced (1/2”) cooked fingerling potatoes, tomato wedges (we halved cherry tomatoes, the only good tomato easily available until next summer), thin-sliced red onions and vinaigrette. For the vinaigrette we skipped Jacques’ slightly garlicy preparation and made our own of olive oil, lemon juice, Grey Poupon, a handful of diced shallots, salt and ground pepper. Before we began the Ragu we put the swordfish in a shallow dish and coated it with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried thyme and oregano for a quick marinade. I was going to sear the swordfish in a skillet, but SWMBO chased me out to the grill to preserve the alpine atmosphere of our house – very few swordfish in Innsbruck, apparently. Over a hot fire the swordfish needed just 2 minutes or less on each side (the lemon juice had already begun to oxidize the fish). We arranged the swordfish and some quartered hard-boil eggs on the salad, drizzled a little more dressing on the eggs and swordfish and created our new go-to Niçoise. (Beez says that it’s lighter than tuna niçoise and, since she is SWMBO, that is a standing order for more swordfish niçoise chez Stewart.)
The Bolognese (Nonna’s) is from Chef Steffano Viglietti from Sheboygan (this is why we need an open-door immigration policy) and is another new favorite – we’ll tell you about it when the weather gets worse and you need some good Sunday gravy. (E-mail me in the meantime, if you can’t wait.)
Legume Restaurant review: This Oakland Restaurant, in the King Edward building is a pretty place, which may surprise those of you who remember the crepuscular Nino’s which once occupied this space. Billy, Beez and I shared a wonderful pork paté – real country stuff with braised pieces and parts set into the paté and a melting moistness that was artery-clogging good. After that, the quality descended. Beez ordered a lamb steak and I had beef liver (don’t say what you’re thinking), and our plates were so-so. Billy ordered an excellent seared Albacore. Perhaps vegetables and fish are the things to order here (it is, after all, call “Legume”), but then the other stuff should not be on the menu. Butter-Joint, Legume’s bar next door, seemed like a friendly place (a real joint) and our waitress was an exotic beauty – Bollywood Star looks – and, above all, SWMBO (Beez) was back in town, having survived her marathon annual meeting. A pretty good night, to my way of thinking.