October 1 – October 7, 2018
Monday: Mushroom Soup, Salad
Tuesday: Tomato Salad, Mushroom Soup, Soda Bread
Wednesday: Dill-Yogurt Dip with Crudités / Grilled Pork Chops with Turmeric-Pineapple Glaze / Che Fico Chopped Salad
Thursday: Fresh Noodles and Macaroni with Ham and Vegetables
Friday: Quick-Cure Salmon / Basque- Grilled Fish and Grilled Potatoes
Saturday: Tim and Hilda’s for Tim’s Birthday – the best party in the hood for many a moon. Speaking of which, Mr. Tim has been around for many moons, and I forgot to take pictures.
Sunday: Escarole and Sausage Soup / Grilled Cheese Sandwiches / Dip and Cheese App
Who would think that a boy who grew up eating steak two times a week, drinking straight Coca-Cola with a scoop of ice cream on Friday nights, and never passing up a chance to eat a whole Italian sub, would end up cooking in the style of Alice Waters, being made fun of (and rightfully so) by Tommy W for referring to raw kohlrabi as having a “grassy” taste, and obsessing over a dip whose main ingredients are yogurt and herbs?
Well, I suppose anyone watching the revolution in American eating and cooking over the last three decades, wouldn’t be terribly surprised. Alice Waters, one of the guiding lights of the fresh produce and cooking simple movement, was a pioneer in creating what you might call the “new American palate.” She was a fan of Richard Olney – an Iowa farm boy who ended up living and cooking in Provence and introduced American’s to French home cooking. I’ve been reading their cookbooks recently and have to recommend Olney’s Simple French Food for its writing as well as its recipes and techniques, and Alice Waters’ In the Green Kitchen for its recipes and techniques.
I strongly suggest that you get Waters’ book, even if you don’t go in for “meatless Mondays,” or any of the other trendy vegetarian cooking of our time. It will give you solid techniques for making vinaigrettes, sautéing and braising and roasting vegetables, and it has a bunch of really good recipes, including meat, bread, etc. Waters’ kitchen was “green” not because she didn’t cook meat or fish or fowl, but because she paid the kind of attention to fresh and beautifully prepared vegetables that made them into something exciting, not the ‘starch and veg’ all dinners had to include back in the day. Just last night, to accompany Michael Chiarello’s spectacular Turkey Burger recipe, we had a simple steamed cauliflower with a few drops of vinegar and oil, salt and pepper, and toasted, fresh breadcrumbs. It was so good, we could have skipped the burger (well, no, but I’m trying to convey some enthusiasm, here). And Waters’ book includes the work and tips of other chefs who have come through her kitchen – a sort of collaboration of a cookbook.
I’ll pass on more about Waters” and Olney’s books when I‘ve finished them. Last week’s ‘Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Zucchini and Herbs’ was Olney’s idea, as was this week’s noodle dish.
And now, back to my new obsession – Yogurt dip with Roasted Vegetables. We had a ton of yogurt left over from a Lebanese tomato salad which called for a yogurt-turmeric dressing. What to do?
I know that people used yogurts in vegetable dips to reduce the calorie count, but I always use sour cream for the taste. Perhaps, we thought, we could gussy up the yogurt with salt and pepper and herbs and (don’t tell Beez) a little olive oil, so that it would actually taste good. We had a bunch of dill, some tarragon and chives handy and went to work. We added those (a lot of dill) to maybe 1 ½ cups of yogurt and squeezed in the juice of half a lemon. I tipped in a pinch of cayenne to give the dip a little bite and then sprinkled some sweet paprika and a few more of the herbs on top. It was pretty, but was it tasty? After adjusting (it needed more salt and a little more lemon juice), it was, in fact, good enough to eat.
The roasted veg was easy. We have become, partly by way of heritage but mostly through practice, great roasters of potatoes and, thanks to Alice Waters, of carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, etc. We also sliced up some raw zucchini into sticks for dipping and had ourselves a pretty, great tasting and, with the roasted vegetables, savory appetizer.
We are hopeful that, one day, we may even get Tommy W to try it. (We’ll advise him to stick with the potatoes and carrots and forget the Kohlrabi.)
Just before the recipe, a few notes on the other dishes we cooked last week.
The mushroom soup, a staple at Casa Stuarti, was superior to any we’ve ever cooked due to adding a cup or so of dried porcini and the hot water we soaked them in to reconstitute them. I mean, we’re talking deep down in the soil beneath the oak tree earthy. The tomato salad was made with perfectly ripe, local tomatoes and the yogurt, turmeric dressing – an Eastern Mediterranean concoction – made the dish a knockout. Beez declared the pineapple-turmeric glazed chops the best she had ever eaten, which pretty much made my week. I’ll tell you about the che fico chopped salad another day. Wonderful and unique – call me if you can’t wiat. The fresh noodles with zucchini and ham was, maybe, the dish of the week. But I don’t have the noodle-making down yet, so I’ll save this for another blog.
Timing: 3 minutes?
Ingredients: (see below for “Roasted Vegetables” recipe)
Whole-Milk Greek-style Yogurt – 1 -2 cups depending on how many people you’re serving
Lemon-Juice – to taste
Salt and Pepper – to taste
Chopped herbs – Dill, Chives and Tarragon are great, and you can use Thyme, Oregano or Marjoram. Basil will work , if you crave it, but it’s a maybe a tad more smoky than some people might like in this dip.
Pinch of cayenne
Tablespoon of good extra-virgin olive oil
Sweet Paprika and a fingerful of chopped herbs for sprinkling on top of the dip
Mix all the ingredients except the sweet paprika and some reserved herbs in a bowl. Taste and keep adding lemon juice, salt and/or pepper until the dip tastes good to you. It should be bright, lemony and just a tad salty.
Spoon into a serving bowl. Top with paprika and more herbs and serve with roasted and/or raw vegetables. You can serve crackers as well. This dip will taste good on your finger, in a pinch.
Do you really need my help here? You must know how to roast carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, etc. And I’m sure you know how to roast potatoes. But do yourself a favor and try them my way: Preheat an oven to 475 F. Place a bunch of small red potatoes (not those tiny things, but what people used to call “new potatoes”) into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for maybe 12 minutes – until a knife goes through the largest potato easily. Drain and let cool. Slice the potatoes in half – quarter any overgrown ones – and toss on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Use your hands for this, you’ll never get them properly coated, otherwise. Place the potatoes cut-side down on the sheet. (That way, you’ll get a beautifully dark-brown, caramelized surface that will give you the same crunch as a French fry.) Now roast the potatoes in that 475 F oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are nicely browned on the bottom. Serve with the yogurt dip. NOTE: You can roast potatoes, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, parsnips etc., the same way – but none of them will take 15 minutes to cook. May 8 minutes for the carrots, kohlrabi and radishes, 10 for the parsnips and 12 for the turnips.