Well, hello there. Long time no see! I remembered that I had a food blog and thought it might actually be fun to come back and start writing here again. Partly this is because I finally caved and joined the Rancho Gordo Bean Club, and am now in the throes of experimentation with a vast quantity of fabulous heirloom beans. I’ve had a few hits and a few misses already, and I really should be writing this stuff down.
For those unfamiliar with Rancho Gordo, it’s a Napa-based company that specializes in fresh heirloom dried beans, plus a few other items like spelt, hominy, Mexican chocolate, Mexican oregano, and fancy vinegars. I heard of them through the blogosphere many years ago, and had been taking advantage of our trips through California to stop at their stall at the Ferry Building in San Francisco to stock up on beans (once I filled a suitcase with them.) Then they closed their SF shop and I was bereft, until I heard about the Bean Club where every three months you get a box of 1-pound bags of beans, different ones every time. Perfect! Of course, that coincided with a New Yorker article on Steve Sando, the owner of RG, which of course meant that the club, which had just been reopened to new members, filled up instantly, but I got on the wait list and am now a proud member. Which means that after two quarterly shipments I now have far more beans than we normally eat. Whoops.
So far I have made a salad of tiny black lentils with lemon juice, yogurt and tons of herbs, several pots of white chili and one of red, a very boring version of Smitten Kitchen’s pizza beans (not Deb’s fault, I was lazy and simplified the recipe too much), a really tasty white bean and farro salad, and the best pork chili verde I’ve ever eaten. Definitely time to start taking notes. And if you have a favorite bean recipe that you think I should try, lay it on me!
Well, this has been a depressing month. Back at the end of October I was sentenced to gum graft surgery, something which I had never heard of before and hope to never experience again. The surgery itself went fine, and apart from the general unpleasantness of having stitches all over my mouth, weird putty bandages on my palate and one particularly nasty evening of uncontrolled bleeding from the graft donor site after said bandages came off, my recovery went well. Things went south when I was laid off from my day job, which admittedly was a mixed blessing, since the job was one of those things that seemed perfect for me on paper but was turning into a sort of living hell, then things got even more thrilling when I turned out to be allergic to the antibiotics I was taking. Through all of this, I was completely unable to eat solid food or drink any quantity of alcohol. Here’s what my diet looked like for those first couple of weeks (I know these pictures are hideous, but this kind of food doesn’t deserve good photography):
Day one. Post-op instructions, lots of painkillers, a completely numb face, and a banana smoothie with protein powder. I ate a lot of bananas, particularly since I couldn’t have any sort of acidic fruit or anything with little seeds. Continue reading →
A rather nice dinner for one: a chicken thigh dusted with Moroccan seven spice and baked, shredded and piled onto Israeli couscous cooked with broth and vegetables (garlic, zucchini and Swiss chard), on a bed of fresh mizuna from the garden. I really enjoyed the bite of the mizuna with the sweet/spicy chicken. I poured myself a glass of New Zealand Sauv Blanc.
Got back a few days ago from our annual west coast road trip.
We stopped for lunch at Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland. Funny place – much of the beer tended towards too sweet for me, but I liked the pale, and the fish sandwich on whole grain bread was very wholesome. Continue reading →
A fine patio dinner of fresh grilled shrimp and vegetables. I dumped a generous handful of chopped fresh marjoram into the warm salad of grilled zucchini and tomatoes with vinegar, which worked beautifully. Also, that was some really lovely radicchio.
Last summer I was working with a LOT of different contractors to get my folks’ new place fixed up, with varying degrees of success. The one that was most irritating was of course also the most expensive, and when I told them how annoyed I was on their customer survey they sent a rather nice apology note and two gift cards to Outback Steakhouse. We don’t generally go to chains like Outback, but hey! Free food! So last night after meeting with a tax advisor we rewarded ourselves with an outing into darkest Burlington, where the steakhouse is tucked into a hidden cul de sac between Target and the freeway.
I had done a little research on Chowhound on what our best bet might be (and what absolutely NOT to order), so after fighting off offers of a Blooming Onion, we settled on one Porterhouse steak to split, with blue cheese wedge salad for me and Caesar salad for Jon.
The steak was ostensibly 20 ounces but that includes bone, so it really wasn’t that big. It was cut quite thin but was done more or less to our specifications (although the waitress was careful to make sure we knew what “medium rare” meant so we wouldn’t freak out at the pink center.) It was tender and salty and quite edible.
The Caesar didn’t seem to be anything special – lots of garlic, little or no anchovy, dull croutons. No big surprises. The wedge was quite fun, as I have a personal fondness for this sort of thing. The bacon was incredibly sweet, though, like candy. Between the dressing, tomatoes, raw onions and iceberg lettuce, it balanced out pretty well, but it was still a bit too sweet for my taste.
It all turned out to be plenty of food, plus two glasses of cheap wine, so we still have another gift card. We haven’t decided whether we’ll go back, and if so, what else would be safe to order. Any suggestions?
We’ve been taking swing dance lessons in Bellingham every week, which is occasionally a fun excuse to go out for an early dinner in town. This week we decided to try the Black Cat (AKA Le Chat Noir) in Fairhaven, which recently came under new ownership and has undergone some renovation.
The Cat has always been a fun space, perched at the top of several flights of stairs with a view down Harris Street and the bay beyond, but it had a history of long waits, expensive watered-down drinks, and rather bad food. We had heard a good report of the new Cat from the staff over at The Real McCoy, and I’m happy to say we’re pleased with the reboot so far.
We tried the burger special, which had avocado and bacon jam, and the fish tacos, which were done in classic Baja style with a nice amount of cabbage and salsa. The portion size was perhaps a little small for anyone larger than me, but the fish was nicely fried. I liked it a lot. I also had a very good glass of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and Jon tried one of the house cocktails, an unusual sounding blend of Mezcal, cherry heering and a few other things. We will definitely be back, I think Le Chat is heading in the right direction.
I was on my own for dinner tonight, a situation that often leads to macaroni and cheese and/or tuna. Trying to be a bit more original, I tried something from 660 Curries that didn’t sound too difficult – a defrosted piece of salmon, braised in a sauce of coconut milk, curry leaves and balchao masala (a fiery, vinegary flavor paste that we made up some time ago and now keep in the freezer in tablespoon-size portions). I added some peas for greenery and dumped it over jasmine rice. Not thrilling, but not bad, and with a glass of wine and Netflix it did the job.
I’ve made this recipe twice now. It’s really, really good, even if you use a lot less than the traditional 40 cloves of garlic, but when I make it it seems to come out very rich and salty, causing me to wake up at 2am with a certain digestive regret. Maybe if I went easier on the salt and did a better job of defatting the sauce. Or maybe just eat less of it. I dunno, did I mention it’s really, really good?
Braised Chicken with Forty Cloves a Lot of Garlic adapted from Use Real Butter, who adapted it from Fine Cooking
4 lbs. chicken, whole or pieces (whole thighs are nice)
black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chicken broth
baguette for serving
Pat the chicken dry, season (both inside and out if whole chicken) with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, then sprinkle paprika over it. Squeeze the lemon juice into a vessel and reserve. If preparing a whole chicken, place the used lemon half in the cavity. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken breast-side or meaty-side down and brown for about 2 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and drain off the oil in the pot (but keep the brown bits!). Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and the wine, stirring the bottom of the pot to deglaze the fond. Place the chicken in the pot on top of the garlic, with the breast-side or meaty-side up. Add the herbs and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and set the heat to low.
Braise 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes, until done. Move the chicken to a plate. Defat the sauce as much as possible, bring the drippings to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer, mashing the garlic into the gravy. Season the gravy with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve with the chicken (carved or as pieces) and toasted slices of baguette.
On Monday Jon made kofte kebabs, so to go with them I decided to try my hand at an Afghan-style basmati rice pilaf with carrots and raisins. The pilaf gets par-boiled, then drained and steamed in its residual water. A little dry, but very tasty, will try again!
To go with I adapted a recipe from Turquoise: a chopped lettuce salad with dill, scallion, and parsley mixed in. Liked this a lot.