September 17 – September 23, 2018
Monday: Left-over burgers and beans / Romaine with Green Goddess Dressing
Tuesday: Spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce / Green Salad
Wednesday: Barbecued Chicken / Pommes Frîtes / Cole Slaw
Thursday: In D. C. – lunch at Old Ebitt Grill – very good oysters, excellent bar-tenders. Friends of Cancer Research reception and dinner at Hay-Adams
Friday: Lunch at Fiola Mare, Georgetown.
Saturday: Grilled Halibut
Sunday: Zucchini and Herb-Stuffed Chicken / Green Salad / Blackberry Sauce with Vanilla Ice Cream (Tim, Hilda, Julie for dinner)
My wife Barbara (Beez) goes along with my jokes and exaggerations (and my shortcomings, failures, indulgences, obsessions, inability to comb my own hair, and generally non-GQ approach to comportment). I often refer to her as SWMBO – “She Who Must Be Obeyed” – an epithet that Rumpole of the Bailey stole from the novel Ayesha and bestowed on his daunting wife.
But the truth is that Beez is beloved, not feared, and in this post I’m going to boast about her. She asked me to rewrite this post and leave her out – but I ignored her because she’s out of town and I am so built to enjoy the moment that I refuse to think about the consequences when SWMBO returns.
Beez has had a wonderful career, helping to start the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute as an assistant to Ron Herberman and making the Association of American Cancer Institutes, which she runs, into a force in national cancer policy as well as a node for sharing information and initiatives among the nation’s leading cancer institutes and researchers. Along the way she has made many friends and mentored many others, while raising two boys (both gainfully employed), nurturing and enjoying a large group of family and friends, creating a beautiful home, dealing with me, handling the taxes, etc.
I love her and am proud, but I didn’t know how much the leaders of the national fight against cancer appreciated her until last week. Barbara flew, with me in tow, to D.C. to attend a reception hosted by the Friends of Cancer Research. The reception honored Anthony Fauci and Rick Klausner, brilliant scientists and administrators (former administrator in Rick’s case) of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (at the NIH) and the National Cancer Institute, respectively.
Also honored that night, at the dinner following the reception, was my girl, Barbara. I had not known how strong an administrative force she was in cancer research. Have you ever been so proud of a wife or child that you cried? Let’s just say that no one at our table would have hired me as a body guard.
View of the White House from our balcony at the Hay-Adams
You’ll understand that I had trouble focusing on the food we ate or cooked, under the circumstances, but here’s the gist of it:
If you go to D. C., along with dancing at the Inaugural Ball, or visiting the National Gallery of Art, or testifying before Congress, or receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor, you MUST have lunch or a drink at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Sit at the bar – order oysters (among other things) – and talk to the bar tenders. Actually, the bartenders will talk to you and introduce you to other people at the bar and you will have fun and at least one extra drink. Do not do this before testifying before Congress. And then for dinner, or for lunch the next day, go to Fabio Trabocchi’s Fiola Mare. The restaurant is right on the Potomac (in Georgetown), decorated in elegant Côte d’Azur style and serves the most delicious fish and shellfish dishes we’ve ever eaten. We had a live sea scallop carpaccio that would have been the best food of the week, except that it was followed by an olive oil poached cod that was silkily delicate and served with caponata and romesco sauce and – well, that and Beez’s two Sauvignon Blancs and my two IPAs sent two very happy campers to Reagan International for our return flight to Pittsburgh, which, it must be noted, contains its own delights – our friends and family and cooking for them.
I will tell you next week about the chicken we cooked for Julie, Hilda and Tim on Sunday. Yikes!, not another chicken dish some of you are saying – but this one is spectacular and must be shared. It’s a shame we can’t share with you the fun we all had being together.
As an appetizer for that dinner, I considered grilling some oysters – one of our favorite things. But we’re never quite sure when our friends are going to show up and so we went with something a little less last-second – a good Burrata on a platter with a salad of tomatoes, arugula, capers, olives, avocado, basil and green goddess dressing. We share the recipe for this dish. It is our own invention, based on a burrata salad served at a table next to ours at Fiola Mare. Ours looks different (Trabocchi piles all of the ingredients around an intact Burrata – we open the burrata and spread the ingredients across one of the wonderful colored glass platters that Three Rives Design Group makes. And we don’t really have the same ingredients – Trabocchi uses a tomato vinaigrette, no capers, no avocado and shaves bottarga (dried fish eggs) over the dish. We happened to have made Alice Water’s avocado green goddess dressing earlier in the week and loved it so much that we made a thicker version to flavor the tomatoes, ham, olives, avocado and lettuces on the burrata platter. This is a spectacular, unique (with a nod to Fabio) appetizer and you need make it now while there are ripe tomatoes and the weather is warm and, if you close your eyes and sit in the sun, you can just imagine that you’re in Provence.
BURRATA SALAD with Green Goddess Dressing
With a good bread and some whipped butter and a crisp white wine (or, if it’s really warm, a dry Rosé), this would serve as a fine lunch or a light dinner.
Timing: 20 minutes or so to make the dressing and assemble
Ingredients: Serves 8-10 as an app or 4 for lunch or dinner
Two large balls of burrata, or 4 small ones. [Note: If you can get a good artisanal burrata – Pennsylvania Macaroni in the Strip has one – that’s best. Otherwise, Maplebrook and Bel Gioso make a good burrata of medium size, available in many grocery stores. The reason to get the large, artisanal burrata, is that it’s creamier and more luscious. Kept in its brine, most burrata will be fine for 7 days, though it will have lost some of its creaminess]
Juice of one lemon
One ripe avocado (you want it firm enough to dice), diced and sprinkled with the lemon juice
2 tablespoons of capers
1 large or two medium ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces or 20 or so cherry tomatoes halved. After tomatoes are cut, salt them before putting into the salad.
12 – 16 castelveltranto olives pitted and chopped (you can use any olive that you like, but these are meaty and go well with the creamy burrata)
A few slices of good, thinly sliced ham, pulled or cut into bite-sized pieces. [Note: Prosciutto is too chewy for this dish – not enough textural contrast with the burrata]
Arugula or torn baby lettuces (or both)
Basil 20 small or several large leaves torn
2 tablespoons of dill chopped
2 tablespoons of chives, chopped
Flaky Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Green Goddess Dressing (recipe follows)
On a large platter, place the burrata balls and, if using the smaller, supermarket varieties, cut in half and then, with out moving the halves, slice into small pieces so that guests can get a piece of burrata without having to saw at the thing. If you’re using the large burratas from Penn Mac or another artisanal producer, keep them intact, and let your guests cut pieces as they serve themselves.
Spread the other ingredients around the burrata, and then sprinkle the whole dish, including the burrata, with the basil leaves, the dill, the chives, a little flaky sea salt and generous grinds of black pepper.
Dot the dish with dollops of the green goddess dressing (you’ll want to make it thicker than you would for a salad of just lettuce). Sprinkle with a few more herbs and serve. Your guests will need forks and plates.
Avocado Green Goddess Dressing
[from Alice Waters, In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart]
Timing: 15 minutes
Ingredients: This makes enough dressing for 6 servings of salad
1 garlic clove (We micro-planed maybe 1/3 of a clove)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 salt-packed anchovies [we used 6 oil-packed and really don’t take the time to drain or rinse – the salt-packed need to be rinsed and boned]
½ ripe avocado
¾ cup olive oil [I’d use maybe ½ cup, if you’re making this dressing to go with the burrata salad]
½ cup whipping cream
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
3 tablespoons tarragon [we didn’t use – couldn’t find]
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro [we didn’t use – Beez doesn’t like]
1 tablespoon chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Make the Dressing:
Finely dice the shallot and garlic [again: we grated about 1/3clove of the garlic] and macerate in a medium bowl with the vinegar and lemon juice.
Finely chop the anchovies and add to the bowl. Now add the avocado flesh and mash the mixture well with a fork.
Whisking with the fork, gradually incorporate the olive oil and cream (like making a thin mayonnaise).
Stir in the herbs and add some grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust.