Sunday, December 28, 2008

Watercress salad for the recession

A quick salad for hard times: watercress, thinly sliced radish, chick peas, dressed with good olive oil and lemon.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas morning breakfast

Fra' Mani not only makes great dry cured salumi they also make breakfast sausage. We are stumbling back from the Jimmy Dean/Farmer John era to the old world of craft charcuterie. In the case of Fra' Mani it is the work of Paul Bertolli who previously the chef at Oliveto in Berkeley/Oakland, one of Pierino's favorite restaurants in California.

We are so grateful that artists like Paul Bertolli once again have access to quality pork coming from small farmers.

Breakfast was simple; we began in one pan with chopped potatoes in a thick dice. We began cooking those in peanut oil to bring a little color to the party. To that we added chopped onion and chopped green pepper and seasoned it. Once the potato is toothsome it's safe to begin your sausage in a second pan to brown.

Be sure your potatoes are properly seasoned (we used an herb salt from Sicily).

You are now ready for breakfast. Sorry about low quality picture but we ate it before we could snap another.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Feels like home to me...

...feels like I'm already back where I belong---Randy Newman

There are a whole bunch of places where Pierino can hang his hat and hopefully find a useful kitchen or a good meal and call it home. And lose a sock in a hotel room or guest bedroom. But mostly we are off the road now but still applying the lessons learned from decades of travel.

First, support local wherever it is you live. Second, if you are on the road and dining solo bring a book and eat at the bar. A table for one is pretty stupid and also uncomfortable for the restaurant as you are wasting space for what could be a two top.

What we have learned over the years is that the people standing behind the bar are your best friends. A reservoir of local intelligence that you should not leave untapped. The book is a conversation starter with your cell mates at the bar and you gather more local news from them. And we've had many interesting encounters.

To illustrate our point yesterday Pierino went back to Boogaloo in Hermosa and had lunch (red beans and rice) at the bar with his friend Heather. Heather brought her own lunch out from behind the bar (roast beef debris sandwich) and we talked about local stuff. As in how important it is, especially now, to support our local business and markets.

Cafe Boogaloo is located on Hermosa Avenue in Hermosa Beach.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Quinoa Chronicles, Part 2

Yesterday Pierino was having lunch at Salt Creek Grille where one of their new small plate items is quinoa with dungeness crab and avocado. It's tasty and couldn't be more healthy.

Problem: it's not selling. If your average hay seed "foodie" doesn't know what something is they won't buy it.

Solution?: call it something else. We are thinking along the lines of "Bolivian Rice." It works this way, if you were to put "slime fish" on your menu nobody would buy it. How about "Patagonian toothfish?" So respectively renamed "orange roughy" and "Chilean sea bass" the fisheries for both have almost been wiped out.

We don't think line caught quinoa, masquerading as Bolivian Rice can possibly be overfished.

So ask your local chef to put it back on the menu and just tweak the name.

And for those of you who care about our fisheries go to

It's sponsered by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They are out front in their mission.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

And the cabbage you rode in on!

Something over 20 years ago Pierino was traveling in Italy with friends and armed with his classroom Italian which wasn't bad but...

We had access to a kitchen not far from Siena so with a degree of confidence Pierino walked into a green grocer and asked for a cabbage (we thought). Cabbage in Italian is "cavolo" but horse is "cavallo." Now the pronunciation is important. It is possible to find horse meat in Italy but not in a green grocer. After some head scratching we saw what we needed and discovered that we should have asked for "savoia."

Pierino was reminded of this story when he was making a big thick minestrone. Pierino's version isn't ribollita but it doesn't need any bread thickener. It will be plenty filling on its own.

Friday, December 5, 2008

This Little Piggy Went to Market...

...and had his face sliced off, his organs taken out, his blood collected for boudin noir and his flesh ground up and stuffed into his own intestines. No wonder the other little piggy went "oui, oui, oui" all the way home. Nose to tail eating; let me know if they find a use for the oink.

This brings us to guanciale. Guanciale is a bacon made from this little piggy's cheek as opposed to belly. Please observe its creamy whiteness. Until very recently it was impossible to find outside of Italy. Happily there are now domestic sources.

It is an essential ingredient in bucatini l'amatriciana as well as spaghetti carbonara. But I've also been using it recipes which call for cured but unsmoked bacon. I can see that frisee salad with lardons and poached egg on the horizon.

I ordered this lovely cheek through Zingerman's.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Copia; the bad news

Pierino hates to report that Copia in Napa has closed. It's a beautiful museum dedicated to food and to the memory of Julia Child. You can see Julia's own pans on exhibit.

Unfortunately the foundation couldn't seem to get out of its own way. So now it is in bankruptcy.

From the New York Times:"Copia was supposed to be a food and wine center," said Darrell Corti..."Please define that for me. It can't be a place where you go around giving parties for each other and expect to be successful." Darrell Corti is a very resonant voice in all things food. He owns the legendary Corti Brothers in Sacramento.

But Copia is unique and we hope it can carry on.