Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where's my sardine app?


Recipe: Steinbeck’s Bagnat:

I came up with this recipe because I couldn’t find the canned sardine app for my new smartphone. Also because I found some really good tinned sardines when I was in Monterey, CA a couple months back. While there I discovered Cannery Row Sardine Co. The young entrepreneur behind this had the brilliant idea of bringing back sardines to Cannery Row. And he has a great product. Go to www.canneryrowsardineco.com to order. The price is a bit high but worth it in a supply and demand universe.

This sandwich is a riff on the pan bagnat and it will be “wet.” It’s supposed to be. Have an ample amount of napkins on hand. This recipe is intended to serve 4 but do the math yourself.

Ingredients;

4 ciabatta style rolls or the equivalent amount of sections of one ciabatta loaf.
2 four oz cans of Cannery Row Sardine Co.™ sardines packed in olive oil or the equivalent in imported tinned sardines.
2 to 3 really good anchovy filets (don’t wimp out on me)
1 sweet onion
1 heirloom tomato
1 bunch watercress
2 radishes---I like the French Breakfast variety because they grow well for me.
Nicoise olives, pitted and sliced (optional)
Sea salt and pepper
Your best olive oil*

The process: wash the watercress and maybe use a salad spinner to get water off. Slice the onions and tomato as thin as you can by hand and set aside. If you have a Kyocera hand slicer (remember mine is named Danton) use it to thinly slice the radishes.

Assembly: lay out a large sheet of plastic wrap on a board. Slice the roll in half lengthwise. Put the halves on the cling wrap and scoop out enough of the crumb so that you have two “canoes.” Give both canoes a generous dose of your best olive oil.

Place a good handful of leaves on the first “canoe.” Top this with the sardine and then the anchovies. Add tomatoes and onion in any order you would like. Finish with olives and radishes, all in a big pile. In the other canoe place the remaining cress. And turn over to cover the sandwich.

Wrap it all up in the cling wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Repeat with as many rolls as you have.

Great for those days when you don’t want to turn on the oven

*If I ever hear any of you use the term “EVOO” you will be permanently off the recipe list. Why? Because even though Rachael Ray has her own brand she doesn’t even know what the term Extra Virgin means. And I’m flat out serious. The world must be saved from this evil woman. Let’s get started!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

food52

Pierino wishes to thank Merrill and Amanda for giving him his fifteen minutes in the "Cook Spotlight". This is a great project. Check it out at http://www.food52.com/home The competition grows larger everyday. We're in for the ultimate throw down.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Profiles of Chefs We Admire; Amber Caudle


We are still a devoted locavore (no matter where we happen to be). Pierino has been patronizing Mediterraneo in Hermosa Beach since it opened. From the name you can infer a Mediterranean theme. Chef Amber has been in charge of the kitchen for six years and she is case study in what young women chefs have to do to succeed. Her food and her talents have grown incredibly in the time we have known her.

As Chef Amber tells the story, she had no formal culinary training (like say, from one of the Cordon Bleu schools) but developed her love of the art and craft as a child cooking with her family. Her first opportunity to enter a restaurant kitchen took place in Colorado where she was allowed by the Sicilian chef to do nothing but prep. Nevertheless, she was invited to follow him to the new Mediterraneo in California. Not long after it opened, the chef and the owner parted ways. Suddenly Amber was in charge of the Med's kitchen. We can tell you from our conversations that Chef Amber is a very serious student of cooking and does practically nothing but study and cook. At first her menu of necessity had to conform to the one the exiting chef had left behind. For the most part it is tapas as in small plates with some entrees. Gradually Amber made it all her own.

Our chef has a fascination with Spanish items, even though two years ago she did a stage in Sorrento in a B&B. She is a devotee of the Slow Food Movement too. Of late she's done some freshening up to the tapas plates, which frankly we love. These were hard to sell at first, stuff like Spanish white anchovies (boquerones) and morcilla (blood sausage)but now they are a success. There are occasional specials not on the menu, but just ask to find out what they might be. We can say that on two occasions for small tables of Pierino's friends, Chef wowed everyone with off the menu dinners at a very reasonable price. This should also tell you that we are a big supporter of what Amber is trying to accomplish here. Think "Top Chef" qualifiers.

Recommendatons from the nightly tapas menu (cold and hot):

Cold: the pinxtos are exceptional but we like;

Pinxtos Anchovy (boquerones, aioli, roma tomato, egg)
Pappadews (sweet peppers, goat cheese, basil)
Fennel Salad (oranges, red onion, almonds, mint)---classic combination

Hot: our favorites include;

Tortilla espanola (potato omelette with piquillos, mushrooms, fontina, aioli)*
Sobrasada Bruschetta (manchgo, quince aka membrillo)
Lentil chorizo stew

And don't overlook the cheese plates!

So go out and support young chefs who work hard for you!

Mediterraneo is at
73 Pier Avenue
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

*Chef Amber has an ingenious method for preparing her tortilla

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Suppli and Demand


Suppli al telefono is classic Roman street food. “Telefono” refers to telephone wires. When you bite into one of these gooey croquettes the strings of melted mozzarella are the wires. We think the origins of this dish must be in Sicily where its counterparts would be the “arancine.” Lots of good ideas came to Rome from Sicily when the Jews were expelled during the Inquisition; most of the culinary ones involved frying stuff. My version isn’t kosher but you can make it so quite easily. The rice is the star here, tweak it as you will. Don’t even think about attempting this with long grain rice. You begin by making a risotto which you can do a day ahead. You can even use leftover “sticky rice” of the cal-rose variety or Spanish “bomba.”
Ingredients:
1 cup Arborio (or other short grain) rice
1 tbs butter
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 cups chicken stock
1 pinch saffron threads
3 whole eggs (2 for the rice plus one for your frying station)
1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese
¼ pound prosciutto or speck or spicy capacola (have it sliced thick), cut into ¼ inch dice
5 oz low moisture mozzarella
½ cup bread crumbs (panko)
½ cup all purpose flour
3 cups frying oil (olive oil would be Roman, but you can use canola or peanut oil as well)

Salt and pepper
1) Prepare the rice. Bring your chicken stock to a boil, add the saffron threads and lower heat to a simmer. Meanwhile melt the butter in your rice pan and add the onion. Allow the onion to color
2) Stir the rice into the butter with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until the rice is translucent.
3) Over medium heat add stock to rice and onion a ladleful at a time. Allow 25 minutes for rice to become al dente and remove from heat.
4) Turn your rice out into a large bowl and allow to cool. Beat two eggs and add them to the rice with several spoons of pecorino, plus salt and pepper. Using your clean hands squish everything together into a lumpen proletariat like mass.
5) In a large pot, preferably cast iron, enameled or not, heat frying oil to 370 degrees.
6) Again using your clean hands, shape the rice into egg shaped balls and insert a piece a chunk of mozzarella and a chunk of your preferred hammage. Close the ball tightly.
7) Your frying station consists of a plate of flour, the remaining egg (also beaten) in a bowl, and a final plate of bread crumbs mixed with more pecorino.
8) One by one, roll the suppli into flour first, dip into egg and finally roll in bread crumbs.
9) Carefully lower your suppli into your hot cooking oil. If you displace too much oil you won’t be yelling “Eureka” like Archimedes. You’ll be dialing 911. Allow your suppli to get nice and golden brown. Serve hot but with care.

Note to cook. There are many variations for suppli and they remain open to argument. Welcome to Rome. Among my favorites would be a ragu of regaglie (chicken giblets), which you could substitute for ham.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twilight, the dinner not the stupid movie



Pierino has spent an indecent amount of time crashing the Central Coast on his way to and from....points north and south. On our return trip from Hercules/Pinole we spent 20 hours in Monterey (we love Monterey) and after a long drive from East Bay landed ourselves at Stokes. This was fortuitous. Because Stokes has now closed. Shock, horror, awe, grief. New chef, but not his fault. We really liked the frogs legs. Bones were frenched so that you had nice toothy morsels of flesh like a lollypop on a little stick of amphibian tibia. The "Buffalo Sweetbreads" were flat out wierd, but they did taste good. Alas, folks this is Twilight for fine dining in Monterey. We'll miss restaurant bartenders Mario and Dino---but they'll turn up someplace soon. And the original chef Brandon Miller is cooking it up in Carmel.

At our hotel we picked up a copy of the free newspaper "Monterey Weekly" and as a consequence had a quick morning confab with Daren Warnick, the brains behind "Cannery Row, Sardine Co." Do you like sardines? Pierino love sardines. Pierino loves fish in tins. Daren got some timely press that pretty much wiped out his inventory almost over night, and it took him a little time to restock it. Price of success. But he has a good product carrying on the heritage of Steinbeck Country and you should go visit him at 700 Cannery Row.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Foodbuzz, Dawn of the Eggs

After a rapturous dining experience at the "Outstanding in the Field" dinner Pierino quickly retired to his chambers at the Galleria Park. He woke up at 5:00 a.m. and discovered that there really was hot coffee on the mezzanine level. So back up four flights of stairs with newspapers. Hooked up with a pair of our favorite bloggers and walked down to Lulu for the sendoff brunch. The DIY SKYY bloody mary bar was pretty scary. We consumed two, along with Nature's Pride croque monsieur and of course...eggs, scrambled not stirred. Neat, sweet, petite.
video

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Foodbuzz Day 2, Chapter 8 1/2

Saturday evening we walked into a Fellini film. Very much like "8 1/2". We could almost hear the Nino Rota "la passarella" score playing in our head down at Greenleaf Produce (or was it Cine Citta?) for the "Outstanding in the Field Dinner". Like Marcello Mastroianni in that film we wanted to crawl beneath the miles of tables arranged like a maze, passing fork lifts, produce boxes and loading docks. Really, it was like the final scene of that movie---one of our all time faves. Thank God it didn't turn into "The Cook, the Thief...."!

The menu was astonishing!

Ahi tonnato on pain de mie with gochukaru and parsley made it's way through the gathered throngs

Mushroom dashi, maitake, shimeji, enoki mushrooms

Udon grilled Monterey calamari in a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisee & yellow pear tomato with chojang sesame vinaigrette

Sea trout(?) baked with dashikombu, fried garlic and Japanese curry powder

Mushroom risotto with koshikari rice, crispy maitake mushrooms

Soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails, baby carrots and fingerling potato, OB Beer and denjang demi

Roasted brussels sprouts, ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, bonito flakes (da bomb!) We're amazed we can still recall it from our Fellini daze.

video

Tell me if any of this looks familiar, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtDQOF_pU8A

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Foodbuzz Day 2 Chapter One

Slouching through San Francisco, Pierino arrived back at the Hotel Vitale for an outstanding Olive Oil clinic led by Chef Michael Touhy of The Grange in Sacramento. We tasted and discussed six different oils and left the session with yet another Foodbuzz gift, a very nice bottle of Olio Nuovo for our own kitchen.

Chef Michael did a wonderful job and all the bloggers who attended raved about it. After that it was a hike down to the Metreon in the excellent company of bloggers Lisa and Jin. City View's space was indeed that! The Taste Pavillion featured more than 50 producers. We sampled everything from crostini to olives to a variety of wines and cheeses---some items just being introduced to the market.

On our last spin through the aisles we unexpectedly ran into an old cohort, Sean Breheny, now at Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista. We remember Sean from back when he worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In those days Pierino was a vendor and Sean would give us a free walk through of the latest exhibits. What a great guy.

After making our way back to our hotel we rushed across the street to ship our swag bag supplies home. Thank you FedEx! After resting up we took the street car back toward the Vitale. Pierino is a major fan of the San Francisco street cars and never tires of riding them. On the way to the Vitale we a made quick visit to the San Francisco Railway Museum and snagged some souvenirs. The gift shop is close to the Ferry Building and only a block from the Vitale. Check out www.streetcar.org More to follow
video

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Foodbuzz Reception

We arrived in San Francisco late Friday for the Foodbuzz blogger conference. In the evening we gathered on the 8th floor terrace of the lovely St. Vitale Hotel overlooking the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge. Superb food and beverage was served, but Pierino exhausted from his long day sipped club soda while his colleagues consumed champagne and exotic drinks. We regret having missed the Street Food Fair. But alas, an early night in bed called to us.
video

Monday, October 26, 2009

Haunted Speakasy

When Pierino is not traveling, cooking or writing he likes to enjoy the arts of theater and performance. This past weekend he attended a "haunted speakeasy" hosted by his friend Christine, a Smart Gal.
videoVisit www.smartgals.org to find out what's smart and what's not.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Waiting for Bonaparte


Pierino scored his second Food52 "editors' pick" for his "Big Zombie Mustard Chicken Tagine" about which editors Amanda and Merrill commented, "The mustard isn't the star of this show, but the dish is sweet and spicy in all the right ways."

So this week our entry for Week 19 is "Waiting for Bonaparte Muffaletta."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Big Zombie for Food52

Watch our entry for Food52 Week 18 "Big Zombie Mustard Chicken Tagine."
video

Not yet ready for Sundance

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chef Jessica

http://www.easyreadernews.com/story.php?StoryID=20035476&searchfor=jessica jordan&ActualDate=2009-10-08

For the record I blogged Jessica's innovative cooking at least a year ago. North End is my hometown hangout.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mind Circus Olimpic

Over the weekend of October 2-4 Pierino had the opportunity to cook with really good friends. Bob and Steve shucked four dozen oysters for our delectation. Jeff points out which oysters to shuck while Pierino aims the camera.
video

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shameless Plugz

Good morning everyone, yours truly aka Pierino, has an entry in Food 52's recipe contest at http://www.food52.com/home for "Walking Spanish Down the Hall Chicken Thighs" in "your best recipe using paprika."



Comment please. And vote early and often once the polls open.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

RIP Keith Floyd


Purgatory extends a mournful welcome to Keith Floyd, a great big hearted talent. Before there was Jamie Oliver there was Keith Floyd. Before there was the obnoxious Gordon Ramsay there was Keith Floyd. Keith Floyd's BBC show's opening music was the Stranglers' "Waltz in Black." So we lose Keith and Jim Carroll in a single week.

Pierino enjoyed Floyd shows much more than "The French Chef." Like Graham Kerr he didn't mind indulging in tipsy, bawdy humour but not with each spoken line incorporating the "F" word as an adjective.

To borrow from Jim Carroll we'll say, "Keith I miss you more than all the others, and I salute you brother!!"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pizza Spagnola



Crib Note Recipes #4; Pizza Spagnola

This recipe begins with a pipérade. It’s a not so distant cousin of ratatouille. It contains at least two types of peppers, flame roasted and peeled, seeded and sautéed with sliced onion and garlic in olive oil with a couple of pinches of Spanish pimenton.

You will also need pizza dough, which is easy to make at home and which also freezes well. Or perhaps purchase some from a pizzeria nearby. Other ingredients are good melting cheese and some Spanish olives.

For the pipérade roast peppers over an oven burner. Choose a combination of colors, with at least one green type. As I’ve noted before, I prefer pasilla and poblano peppers to green bell peppers. The roasted skin peels off more easily, and they are easy to peel, seed and scrape. And I think they deliver a richer flavor.

Once you’ve roasted the peppers place them in a paper bag and roll closed. Or put them in a large bowl and cover it tightly with cling wrap. They’ll need about 20 minutes to rest before they are ready. To continue your mise slice a sweet onion as thinly as you can. Thinly slice two garlic cloves. Coarsely chop a couple of nice tomatoes.

Heat some olive oil to the point that it shimmers and add the peppers, onion, tomatoes and garlic and begin to sweat them down. Season with sea salt and the pimenton . The onions should be caramelized and soft and the tomatoes almost melted.

At this point your pipérade is ready to use at once or to hold for several days.

For the pizza, roll out your dough and shape in a pan. Cover with a towel to allow a second rise (the second after its first fermenting rise).

Crank up your oven to its highest temp. I’ve found through the use of a laser thermometer that the floor of mine attains about 600°F.

Meanwhile thinly slice your pizza cheese. For this I use a Basque Idiazabal, and I use a swivel peeler to get almost paper thin slices. Brush the bottom of the dough with olive oil and then cover with the cheese. Top that with your pipérade and brush the edges of the crust with more oil. Top with a handful of olives and place on the middle rack of your oven. Depending on the heat and your dough it should take about 18 minutes to finish. Let cool and then slice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Enchiladas/Fideos Pierino Style


This casserole combines Mexican and Spanish elements in total, harmonious deliciousity. You will need a 14 oz can of red enchilada sauce (unless you make your own moles), a package of fideo noodles (sold in coils), 8 to 10 medium sized corn tortillas, ¾ lb ripe tomatoes, a firm sheep’s milk cheese---one which you like and which you can grate , approximately ¼ of one small head of green cabbage, cilantro washed and chopped (optional).

Begin by heating your oven to 400˚. Meanwhile bring a pot of water to boil on the stove top and lubricate your casserole with oil or butter.

Recipes for publication these days are supposed to remind you to open the can before using the contents, so please do that, right? Empty the enchilada sauce into a large bowl. Using a box grater, grate your cheese. You will need about 4 oz or more to your taste. Dice one tomato but leave at least one whole to slice.

When the water has come to a boil add coarse salt and then the fideo coils. Cook until just barely al dente. Drain the noodles and when cool enough to handle separate into strands. One by one dip a corn tortilla into your patient enchilada sauce---it’s waiting for your loving touch. Cup a tortilla in the palm of your hand, and using your non-wet hand spoon in some grated cheese, then pluck out some fideo to almost fill the tortilla add some chopped tomato and roll up to fit one side of your casserole. Repeat until the casserole is full with just one layer of enchiladas. Drip any remaining enchilada sauce over the top, followed by another handful of cheese. As fast as Zorro you must now slice your tomatoes and place these on top of everything else. Place the casserole in the hot oven.

Now grate your cabbage on the box grater which you have not yet put in the dishwasher. After about 20 minutes your enchiladas should be ready. And yes, your earthenware casserole will be hot to handle. Toss some cilantro over the top, if using, followed by the grated cabbage. For enchiladas Cal-Mex style top with sour cream----I’m not saying you should, just that you can.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Whatchamacallit


This woodland creature is commonly known as:

a) Tom Hanks's pal in "Cast Away"
b) Celeriac
c) Shrekfruit
d) Alton Brown
e) Glutenintolerantosaurus

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chicken a la Plancha for a Summer Night


Crib Note Recipes #2; Chicken a la Plancha
Simple, succulent and easy for these hot summer nights.

You will need a combination of chicken wings and thighs, Spanish pimenton de la vera (‘picante’), sea salt, rosemary and lavender branches (optional), mesquite or oak charcoal (essential) for the fire.

To finish and serve, you will need thinly sliced red onion and two or more peeled cloves of garlic (preferably from confit) , a handful of small olives, one meyer lemon and ground black pepper.

Begin by building a fire of hardwood charcoal. I recommend banking the coals to one side and placing a drip pan to one side at the bottom of the grill because to the extent possible you would like to cook the chicken over indirect heat. Position any fatty pieces so that they drip into the pan and not onto the coals. Begin skin side down and finish skin side up. Place a few rosemary and lavender branches (if using) on the grill grate amidst the chicken pieces so that they help perfume the skin and meat. Discard the herb branches which by now will be blackened.

While the chicken is cooking sauté the onions in a small amount of olive oil. Allow them to soften just short of full carmelization and add the garlic cloves and stir. When the chicken is finished transfer the pieces to a serving platter. Add a generous grating of black pepper. Top with sautéed onions and garlic. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken and scatter the olives.

Serve with a green salad, and maybe some couscous.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pissaladière from Crib Note Recipes


Allez cuisine! One more reason for you to master flat breads that you can top or fill with really swell stuff.

You will need 1 ½ lb pre-made dough, such as pizza dough. This dough freezes well and is handy to keeper in the freezer, tightly wrapped in plastic. Sweet onions, thinly sliced. Two or more peeled cloves of garlic. Eight to twelve good quality anchovies such as boquerones or alici. Black olives (pitted or not) such as niçoise . “Fruity” extra virgin olive oil. A sprig of fresh thyme, and a bay leaf. Bench flour. Sea salt and pepper.

If using a frozen dough allow it to come back to room temperature while still in its cling wrap.

Heat some olive oil in a pan large enough to contain the onions and slowly carmelize them, stirring frequently. This will take about 40 minutes over a low flame. You would use this technique when making onion soup.

Prepare a hot oven, 450º to 475º. No two ovens are calibrated exactly the same, so you have to know you own well.

Unwrap the dough and roll it out onto a floured board. Transfer the dough to a sheet pan you’ve rubbed with olive oil. Crimp the dough against the edges of the pan so that it will hold the filling. You would like the interior to be about 1/8” thick.

Cover the rolled out crust in the pan with a towel and allow it to rest for about fifteen minutes.

Fill the crust with a lavish amount of onions and the garlic cloves. Tuck in the bay leaf. Arrange the anchovies in a cris cross pattern. Scatter the olives across the top. Strip off the leaves from the thyme and sprinkle those around. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Brush the outside crust lightly with a little olive oil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the outside crust becomes nice and golden brown. Serve sliced.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pupusas USA

When not chasing after the Kogi truck Pierino is ever on the hunt for pupusas. Pupusas are native to El Salavador. They could be described as living a life somewhere between a soft corn taco and an empanada. The dough itself is made from masa and water and the interior filling is a mozzarella like cheese, and chicken or beef or pork or vegetables. The essential condiments include spicy cabbage slaw and some zesty salsa.
videoHere's a quick look from our spy cam of pupusas in progress at or local farmer's market.

video

Mary Sue Milliken of the "Two Hot Tamales" is also a fan and raves about the pupusas from the Central Market in downtown LA.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Off to Market

Of late Pierino has been dividing his time on the ol' pie chart amidst trips to farmers markets and Surfas in Culver City. This makes for a busy but satisfying week: fresh produce from the markets and tools and prepared products from Surfas.


At the Friday Hermosa Beach market we stopped at Harry's Berries out of Oxnard and talked to Gabriel about strawberries.
video

The berries we purchased were small very sweet, and actually for all intents "organic" but for the fact that they are not certified as such. This is a very slippery slope for small growers and confusing as hell for the consumer. "Certified" is the operative word and there is an "economy of scale" trade off that confronts small farmers, particularly in terms of paperwork.

Pierino talked to Russ Parsons of the LA Times about this back when berries just beginning to show up in the markets. In an e-mail Russ wrote: "...until the advent of chemical pesticides, [strawberries] were a miniscule crop because they are so susceptible to soil-borne diseases that you couldn’t plant them in the same field more than two years in a row. Probably the worst pesticide that is used on strawberries is the same one that is used to fumigate houses for termite control. It’s applied to the soil before planting to knock down the virus load. It is very nasty and it is one of those that for me becomes a very difficult question of whether it’s worth it or not. On the other hand, there are few things more delicious than a great strawberry."

You can listen to Russ Parsons discuss this topic with Evan Kleiman on the podcast of Saturday's (8/15)"Good Food." KCRW.

So, when you can, patronize your farmers markets and talk to the growers. They are happy to answer your questions.

For Harry's Berries go to www.harrysberries.com

And if you don't live in Southern California you can shop Surfas at www.surfasonline.com

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ripeness Matters


Okay, you walk into your local chain grocery store hungry for melons which are at the peak of their season. You are hoping for something ripe and sweet. You won't find it. Odds are your fruits have traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to reach your market. They are picked before they are fully ripe because of the distances they must then travel. Possibly they are sprayed with ethylene gas to promote off the vine ripening. This does not add any sweetness.

And don't fall for "certified organic" a term which is virtually meaningless when it comes to flavor. It just costs you more.

The best thing to do is to buy local when you can. Get up early and visit the farmers markets. You will find salad greens that are crisp and delicious and fruits that are ripe and sweet. You can choose a melon, like the one picture, by sniffing the stem end. You should be able to enhale a bit of sweetness. Try that in a supermarket and you'll just get a musty smell.

If you are lucky enough to have a real green grocer located near you send your business his way. And ask questions.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our Signature Recipe from Purgatory


Chicken Purgatory Soup

On a recent weekend I “grill roasted” a baby chicken (poussin) over a charcoal fire. I seasoned it with salt and pimenton dulce and laid it out over the wood coals, covered, where it developed a nice smoky flavor. There were leftovers.
I crafted this soup recipe to include three layers of “flame roastedness.” The other two are fire roasted tomatoes (Muir Glen) and a small green pepper blackened over a stove top burner. To these ingredients I added sliced okra and and red corn which I found at Whole Foods, but you can substitute white corn. I finished it with thinly sliced green onions and chopped cilantro. I plated it with long grain white rice.
I enjoyed this enough to make it the signature recipe for my blog.

INGREDIENTS

1 tbs chopped shallot
2 tbs olive oil
¾ cup chicken stock
1 16 oz can fire roasted tomatoes (e.g. Muir Glen)
1 ear red corn (or substitute white)
1 smallish green bell pepper, roasted over an open burner flame
½ cup slice okra, fresh or frozen
½ green onion (green and white parts), sliced
Chopped cilantro, just a small handful
½ of one wood grill roasted chicken, meat from breast, thigh and leg (note: you can grill the chicken over gas, lid closed, but you won’t get the smoky flavor, and I won’t respect you in the morning. And you’ll spend another ten years in Purgatory).
Salt and pepper
1 cup cooked white, long grain rice

Begin by flame roasting the green pepper on an oven burner, turning frequently. When the skin is blackened place in a paper bag, rolled closed to steam. Or place the pepper in a glass bowl and seal with cling wrap. Both methods work fine. I keep small bags around to recycle just for this purpose.When the pepper is cool enough to handle rub the blackened skin away (it's okay if a little bit clings). Cut into strips lengthwise, and then into smaller pieces across the width.

By hand tear the meat from the chicken and shred by hand. Set aside.
In your soup pot heat the olive oil and add the chopped shallot. Cook until just translucent.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and a couple of grindings of pepper and bring back to simmering, uncovered.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, carve the kernels off of the corn and stir into the soup.

Add the okra, roasted pepper and stir everything together. Cook at a steady simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, allowing the okra to contribute some thickening.
About half way through cooking begin steaming your rice in a coved pan over low flame. Usually 18 minutes does the job.

Taste the soup for seasoning. It will need more salt and ground pepper. Add green onions and cilantro to finish. Cilantro can be added over individual bowls. See note.
When the soup has thickened but is still “soup like” remove from heat. Add the rice to individual bowls and ladle the soup over or around the rice. It’s ready to eat.
Notes to the cook: if you are feeding guests offer them the option of having their serving with or without cilantro. I love the stuff but I’m now convinced that some people are genetically predisposed to dislike it. It’s not an acquired taste.

I picked up a pretty nifty trick for scraping kernels from a corn cob from Michael Chiarello. If you have a bundt pan, invert it, place the pointy end of the cob into the hole in the tube. Scrape away. The pan will collect the kernels so that they are not flying all over the place.

If you like you can use a larger chicken, maybe a Rocky Junior.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Spain: Why We Love Those Little Tins in Our Pantry

This dish exploits the Spanish infatuation with canned seafood. They do a marvelous job of cramming superb fish into cans; tuna, sardines, anchovies, but also octopus, and all packed in olive oil! Let’s admit that imported canned seafood is expensive. But it’s worth it and it’s always there waiting for you in your pantry when you are hungry.

Octopus Tartine w/salad of romaine
Ingredients per person:
1 slice baguette cut on the bias (the tartine)
1 can octopus packed in olive oil (preferably Ortiz)
1 clove of garlic, sliced
Grey salt
1 tsp of Piment d’Esplette or other good Spanish pimento (aka paprika).
Lemon juice
Chopped flat leaf parsley

Begin by addressing the baguette with a serrated bread knife, “bon jour Monsieur baguette.” Turn the baguette on its side and make a long bias cut giving you a slice about 8” to 10” long, with one thin end and one thick end. Lightly toast in the oven and set on a serving plate.

Open the tin and drain the olive oil into a pan set over low heat. Add the garlic to color lightly and then add the octopus. Stir in salt, piment and lemon juice. Continue to cook until heated through. The octopus will already be quite tender. Finish with chopped parsley.

Carefully pour the pan juices over the bread on its serving plate. Spoon the remaining contents of the pan onto the bread. E’ voila!

Romaine salad

1 heart of romaine
Juice of one lemon
¼ cup olive oil
Fresh thyme
Fresh lavender
Salt and Pepper

Slice romaine crosswise into 1” ribbons. In a pyrex measuring cup combine the dressing ingredients and whisk with a fork to combine. Dress the romaine. Serve on the side.

Source information: This all sounds very easy but quality tinned Spanish seafood can be difficult to find. I’ve found Zingermans.com to be extremely reliable in quality and variety.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Deep Thought


This past week I had to surrender my laptop for much needed work (the curse of the curious insertion point). It turned out to be an opportunity to think, read and write notes on legal pads in long hand sans the toggle on/off effect of Facebook and God help us, Twitter.

I spent my mornings studying and my afternoons cooking. Not disagreeable.

I turned to the work of deep thinkers Keller and Adria. Ferran Adria's books read like string theory as interpreted by Antonio Gaudi and Jacques Derrida. Amazing, eyeopening stuff. I won't be cooking from Adria soon but I have cooked and will continue to cook from Keller.

I also seanced with Julia Child. I think of Julia child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" as akin to the Old Testament. I own both volumes and they are shelved with the respect they deserve---or at least deserved in 1961. I read from them often but I seldom cook from them now. I do enjoy the part where Rachael Ray is cast into hell to be tormented by James "Beelzabub" Beard.

The New Testament begins with the gospel of Alice Waters---another American Girl in France. I think it may end with the Apocalypse. Surely it wont end with Keller---per se.

Pig has resumed its properly place among the heavenly bodies. Soon it will have its own constellation in deep space. No longer outcast as "the other white meat."
Real pork is back and it tastes good. Supermarkets are carrying real vegetables. And for those of you who are thrill seekers, your supermarket possibly has a sushi counter.

Another faint glimmer on the horizon is that young people are training to be real artisan butchers, breaking down carcasses and not just running primals through a band saw and sticking them in foam packages. The rock star icon of this movement is the Tuscan, Dante quoting butcher Dario Cecchini. He's not likely to be handing your kid a slice of bologna. Now this dream is still just that little bit of pinkish light in the early morning sky. But...

Things are not so good in the oceans. Believe in sustainable fishing? It's a joke. There's no miracle of loaves and fishes happening here. Learn to love anchovies and squid. Bigger fish which can attain great age are being taken before they can reproduce, hence dwindling stocks. Orange roughy aka slime head comes to mind. If you consume farm raised salmon you are committing crimes against nature and against yourself. So stop now.

I guess this is where I stopped thinking.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Give me analog....please


The photo which accompanies this has a purpose. What could be more analog than an 8" chef's knife made from layered steel? It's beautiful and it has a function. Try tweeting some potatoes or onions!

We are so down with real hardware, as well as the original software, the book.

This morning we had the extreme annoyance of dealing with two large corporate firms who each, after interruptions in service, giving me call back numbers that don't work, finally drop me off in a call center in Bangalore. One of these firms is receiving "stimulus" funds. It begins with a "C". And the service in both cases sucked. What business model does this follow? We will save money by losing customers?

As far as I know my favorite bookstores and food purveyors don't have call centers or elaborate menu trees. I get to speak with real people. So buy local and don't give up on analog. Because we won't give up.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wicked and Cool


Spiders. I love them. From China, the land where your t-shirts are made. But these tools are really, really useful. Scoop out gnocchi from a pot of boiling water. Diced vegetables that you've been poaching. Par boiled shrimp.The best french fries. Stuff like that.

I went to Sur La Table with my sister (she who hates anchovies)and she wanted to buy some expensive skimmer type thing. I pointed these puppies out.

I forgot to mention that they are cheap.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Pantry Principle


Recipe: Tuna , with white beans and artichokes with garlic crouton

Premium quality tuna packed in olive oil tinned or jarred and white beans have a love affair going on. So here is another variation from your pantry. And it’s simple. Shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes.

Tinned or jarred best quality imported tuna*
Canned white beans
Jarred artichoke hearts
Sliced, toasted white bread
Garlic clove(s)
Fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Begin by toasting as many slices of ½” thick bread to the number of plates you are preparing.
Add some olive oil (not much) to the bottom of a sauce pan and heat that up. Add the white beans and a sprig or two of thyme and cook slowly, uncovered for maybe 2 minutes.

Meanwhile slice in half as many garlic cloves as you have toasted bread slices. Rub the top surface of each crouton with a half clove.

Plating; crouton goes on the plate. Top that with a generous amount of beans. Now portion tuna and artichokes over as well. Keep in mind that the tuna and beans want to hug and kiss. The artichokes like to be alone but they can handle a little white bean love too.
Now hard was that? And how long did it take you?

*Recommended labels include:
Consorcio
As Do Mar
Ortiz

Depending on where you live, finding tuna of this quality might be difficult. It won't be at your local supermarket. Whole Foods has some good product. But you might want to think about ordering on line in case amounts of 8 to 12. No point in ordering one tin or jar. It will be expensive but the freight ammortizes and it's always there in your pantry for you. Splurge on the "ventresca."

If you have trouble finding sources please leave a comment.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Top Chef the Masters

Pierino loves Top Chef: The Masters. No more tears, attitude and elevated hair. Some talent, some wimps, some total incompetents and Ted Allen. Somehow the incompetents managed to survive three rounds, including one big fat blob of goo from our childhood hometown of Babylon, NY: "the judges just didn't get it."

So it's refreshing to see real professionals at work. Calm and collegial. And confident because they are already at the top. And they are competing for their favorite charity. They were given one challenge that would have made the season four chefs wet their pants: cook in a Pomona College dorm room using only a hot plate, a toaster oven and a microwave. We believe all four said, "I don't know how to use a microwave." But you got to see real professionals at work with calm and amazing resourcefulness and no snipping.

We won't tell you who won because you'll want to watch this.

The only part we didn't like was the judges panel. James Oseland editor of Saveur (we miss you Colman Andrews), Gael Greene who is 100 years old, and Jay Rayner of the London Observer. Don't know much about him. Oseland looked as if he were hoping a housefly would buzz past his face as an amuse bouche.

Upside, no Ted Allen.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Reasons to Love Cheese


Cheese is good for you. We confess to loving cheese more than wine. We liked the film "Sideways" but might have liked it more if Miles and Jack had gone on a cheese quest on the Central Coast.

Another reason for being a cheese eating surrender monkey (a lable I wear with pride by the way) is that you get to meet some really cool people. Take for example Laurent Bonjour aka The French Cowboy. Cowboy Laurent sets up his truck at various farmers market locations. He has a fine selection of excellent cheeses and and he really knows his stuff. He is pictured above with an epoisses in hand.

Yesterday we asked for some recommendations and he suggested a Cantal Vieux. He told me that its provenance goes back to the time of Christ. In keeping with our scholarly research efforts we looked it up and in fact Pliny the Elder commented on it in 100 AD. Now how cool is that?

So check out http://www.cheesecorner.net/ to find out where Laurent is setting up shop. You won't regret it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What's not so cool now...

...literally. Sorry but immersion circulators are not on our list for Santa. Okay go ahead and "sous" me. We own a portable induction cooktop. After that it's a sous to far. Okay, we own a pressure cooker---it doesn't come out very often. But if you are Thomas Keller you can sous vide stuff. After that some of the biggest screw ups on Top Chef have involved the circulators. Compadre Ruhlman doesn't agree with me on this.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What's cool now...


What Pierino thinks are cool would be tiffin lunch boxes, composed of stackable tiers of trays. All neatly organized and cheap---unless you go to Design Within Reach where they are ridiculously expensive, but that's Williams Sonoma for you.

We cook away from home frequently so for us it's a convenient way to prep ahead. But they are also excellent for your picnic. Think green too. No little foam trays to fill up land fills with.

Our understanding (knowing nothing about Indian languages) is that the name comes from "tiffin walla"..."who carries a box." The imperial English shortened the name to tiffin. The ones we own were made in India.

What else is cool? Blackhawks v Redwings in Stanley Cup semis. This is the oldest rivalry in hockey going back to 1926 when there were only 6 teams in the league. Can you guess who the other four were? Carolina Hurricanes were not among them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Setting the Bar of Bar Courtesy

This we believe, after 30 years of constant travel. Be courteous and respectful toward your bartender.

One thing I learned when I was traveling solo and dining in good restaurants is that it's usually easier (and more appreciated) to take a seat at the bar (I bring a book along)and order the menu from there. Be prepared to chat with your neighbors and the bartender. Trust me, they'll ask you about the book.

Step two, be sure to politely ask everybody's name. It goes along way. Pierino's MO is to order one (or maybe two) drinks along with food. Nurse your drink and get to know people. During my travels I've gone back to quality restaurant bars after a six month interval, and say, Mario up in Monterey remembers me and what wine I ordered and points up the best things on menu. Not because Mario is trying to "sell" them but because he personally likes them. The term "sous vide" seldom comes up.

I do this at home as well. Basically because I visit bars to eat and not to drink all afternoon. So, these people have become my friends and not my servants. Sometimes the chef will come out and chat with me for awhile.

Back to bar etiquette. Don't yell that "we want three Captain Morgans." You'll wait a full half hour for drinks. A nod is all you need, he or she knows you are there. And be sure to always say please and thank you. As in, "thank you, Heather." "And, yes, I will look at a menu thank you."

Now enjoy your food and your book.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Classical Gas

This past week we had an opportunity to cook dinner for good friends; something we love.

It's funny how a menu can begin with just one ingredient and then just roar off like a brush fire. Not a good joke just now. One of the first dishes we thought of was an old school iceberg lettuce wedge with roquefort dressing. This was approved by popular acclaimation. And then...

...but then we had to come up with a "classic" old school main dish. Pierino consulted with his friend Kim http://kimsunee.com/blog/ on some ideas. But what we settled on was osso buco. With some trepidation we ordered over the phone so that our friend Lee Van Cleef could pick up the package in Ojai. Let's just say it exceeded our expectations. What a relief. Four nice shank pieces coming in at 4 pounds total. Oh, yes.

Now Pierino's criminal mind went to work. The traditional accompaniment would be a risotto Milanese; but---- What we served was a saffron fettucine. Saffron is our favorite ingredient. End of discussion.

Pierino knicked his left thumb early into the game while chopping onions. This happens a lot. You put a tiny cut on the tip of your thumb with a sharp knife and you won't believe how much it will bleed. So: much hand washing, taping and retaping. Try this experiment; use a very sharp knife and poke the edge of your ear with it (you might want to test this in the shower because you will bleed lavishly). Okay,you probably don't want to do that. We're just saying...

A "classic" Roquefort dressing

Real Roquefort, crumbled
Hellman's/Best Foods mayonaise
Buttermilk (we love buttermilk)
Garlic salt
Possibly water to thin
A whisk

Combine ingredients to your personal taste. Our recommendation? Knock yourself out with Roquefort. You won't regret it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Buitoni Angolotti recipe


The Buitoni folks might put a hit on me for saying this but portobello and cremini are not "wild" mushrooms. They are the same 'shroom at different stages of age, the common brown mushroom which has been used since the 18th century in America. Give it a marketing name and hey.... it's still a good product

But because I'm supposed to be a "Taste Maker" here's the RECIPE;

1 package of Buitoni wild mushroom agnolotti cooked per package directions
1/4 cup walnuts
California walnut oil
Some really good Roquefort cheese (if you can find it after the 300% tariffs)

While your Buitoni is cooking lightly toast the walnuts in a skillet. Remove that from the flame and heat some walnut oil in a larger pan. Once the agnolotti are cooked toss them into the pan with the oil. Finish with walnuts and and generous amount of Roquefort. This will take less than a minute.

This is not one of my typical "Recessionist" recipes but you have to live free or die of hunger. The Roquefort is a splurge but it's really good. Buy it before they take it away from us. Note to cooks: we didn't want to pile mushroom on mushroom for this. We thought about truffle oil. But we like the recipe above best.


And by the way we loved the years when Diego Maradona wore the Buitoni shirt for Napoli.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My kind of town part 33 1/3


Flora and Fauna.

Flora was easy to sum up. The ivy on the Wrigley Field walls was dead. One more month maybe.

Fauna: guys with gigantic t-shirt jiggling bellies, feeding their kids corn dogs. When Van Cleef and I were at Doug's there was a guy heaping on condiments like it was "all you can eat Ketchup day". But he's probably telling his kids that you need to store up lipids for the winter.

And so far nobody has correctly answered the Ramones question.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My kind of town, part 3



We go out blogging after midnight...

Another ball game at Wrigley but first we had breakfast and then hot dogs. We met up with Lee Van Cleef downstairs at Mercat. We couldn't figure out why the continental breakfast costs $18 and eggs any style costs $8. Well, it's the quality of the ingredients. Spanish chorizo, incredible cheese. Okay, we bought it.

Lee Van Cleef went out for a walk while Pierino went back to his room to read the papers.

Red line again, but this time we had to get to the shrine of all hot dogs. Pierino loves hot dogs and there is no better place to have a dog than Chicago. No better place in Chicago than Hot Doug's.

The Chicago hot dog is composed like this:
poppy seed roll
all beef frank in a natural casing (go for Vienna Beef)
yellow ball park mustard
green relish
chopped onions, lightly sauteed
dill pickle spear
one or two Chicago sport peppers
celery salt

No tweaking! Everything above is indispensible unless you are a total effing sissy.
Hot Doug's is on the northside about 3 miles from Wrigley. Go early and stand in line. They describe themselves as a "sausage superstore and emporium of encased meat". The Chicago hot dog will only cost you $1.75. But Doug (very nice guy) does real charcuterie. The "celebrity sausage" that day happened to be rabbit. $6.95.

Doug puts a lot of good things into a natural casing. Go visit him on N. California at Roscoe. We love this place.

From there it was back to Wrigley. Cubs lost again to a better team, the Cards. Pierino loved that the Cards' pitcher Weinstock was able to put down two sacrafice bunts to advance a runner each time. The Cub/Cardinal rivalry is huge. But we watched only two fist fights.

Back to the Blackstone for a couple more vodka tonics. Pierino's knees seem to respond well to warm temps and vodka.

Dinner at Shaw's Crab House for a little bit of old school. Scallops, shrimp and there you go. Kind of old Chicago atmo. Pierino gave up martinis a few years ago. But if you are up for them this is good place. They have two rooms; dining room and oyster bar but you can order from either menu in either room. Life is beautiful.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My kind of town, part 2


Wednesday morning Pierino woke up jet lagged, with painful and unreliable knees. We did have a great view of Lake Michigan although our early morning vision was a bit uncertain.

A few hours with the morning papers. We discovered that Marylin Chambers and Mark Fydrich had died. Phil Spector was convicted of second degree murder and sent to the Big House. Phil don't drop the Ivory Soap. It reminded me of a Ramones' song with the line; "It's the end, the end of the seventies. It's the end, the end of the century." How many living Ramones can you name?

Along with our friend who looks like Lee Van Cleef we walked to the Harrison Station and took the red line Metra to Addison for the ball game. We were at least an hour early but we wanted to pick up the vibe. It was overcast and cold, like very cold. But Wrigley Field is the shrine of shrines for baseball fans. Cubs have great fans who can combine the wit and stupidity of soccer fans in Europe. What a mix.

When we ordered our tickets we didn't know that it was going to be #42 day in honor of the late Jackie Robinson. "Who's in right?" Number 42 Fukodome. "Who's at first" Number 42, Lee. Whats on second and I don't know is on third.

Anyway Cubs, who don't look so good, lost to the Rockies. We also started the Giovany Soto index. How low could the Cubs' catcher's BA drop in two days. Dropping faster than the S&P.

Lee Van Cleef commented that, "they really drink a lot of beer here." More on that later.

Metra back to the Blackstone for some vodka tonics to unlock our knees. Dinner decision: Rick Bayless's Topolobampo. They weren't taking reservations but we were seated right away at what I think they call "the chef's counter" or something like that. It's right off the cooking line. In the morning your clothes have an aroma of ambient flavors. Lee Van Cleef ordered pig and Pierino ordered duck. Neither of us was disappointed, but we agreed that the pig was best. There is no better Mexican restaurant in America. And there may be no better Mexican restaurant in Mexico, because there really is no restaurant culture there. We had excellent service in cramped and hot conditions. Rick, we love you man. Wonderful flavors. Only the Two Hot Tamales can rival you.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My kind of town, part 1

Tuesday, April 14 Pierino flew into Chicago with a friend for a couple of days of baseball and hot dogs. This time on the outbound flight we got the whole TSA body scan because we were wearing knee braces. We was crammed into a window seat with little leg space so it only got worse.

We cabbed on to the Blackstone on S. Michigan Avenue, great rates for an old hotel that has had a major makeover. Great rooms with views of the big lake.

Our friend (retired BofA exec, I'll give you his e-mail if you want to beat him up) and I took a stroll, for me a stagger, up Michigan Avenue for 1.25 miles---we argued about the distance. It was colder than f..k.

Anyway, when we got back to the Blackstone Pierino decided that we were not leaving. This turned out to be a serendipitous decision. The restaurant downstairs in the Blackstone became a discovery. Mercat a la planxa is wonderful. We haven't seen it reviewed before.

We enjoyed screaming hot scallops served in a cazuela, a fig salad wrapped in jamon that was like a log, a fragrant barramundi, and an arroz (bomba rice) with morels. When the latter plate came out the aroma was so strong that our friend asked "what's THAT"? I guessed truffle oil, checked with the kitchen, and was right even though it's not mentioned on the menu. Ample truffle oil.

Pierino would definitely recommend Mercat a la planxta to friends for its great Catalan style tapas menu. No foams, no jellies. No reviews.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grapefruit...the other white meat


Pierino loves grapefruit (pompelmo in Italiano). We found these lovely pear shaped Shaddocks at Grow in Manhattan Beach. They require a little work. You will need a sharp knife because takeing off the rind is like skinning a basketball. And the pips are kind of big too---like the size of your canine teeth.

But once you are in there the fruit is delicious. Perfect combination of bitter and sweet. If you don't adore that then don't eat grapefruit. Ever.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Give him some air...

Keller (yes, that Keller) is back with a new book from Artisan, UNDER PRESSURE which lands on your coffee table for $50. Pierino's take is that this is like the Simpsons meet the Jetsons.

Keller acknowledges that his book is meant for chefs. Who at home has an "immersion circulator" with a connoculater bypass? Keller predicts that these will become as common as microwaves. Of course some of the most conspicuous meltdowns on "Top Chef" had to do with cooking 'sous vide'. It's like the old Stouffer's boil in a bag swedish meatballs. Zio Pasquino would never think of boiling meatballs. Matzoh's maybe.

"I'M BILLY MAYS AND..."

Pierino is still trying to catch up with the epoch of molecular gastronomy. We have yet to make our first foam (espuma) but it could happen soon. We've been working on menus that are a tribute to Spain, the epicenter of cooking genius at the moment. We actually own a Ferran Adria baseball card. So far neither Ferran nor Keller have promoted a "salad shooter."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our Breakfast with Pedro O'Brien




Pierino aka The Recessionist,always a problem child with a criminal mind, has been pursuing a back to basics; low cost ingredients; and a "buy what's good in your markets now", agenda. And we are serious proclaimers.

Here is our latest:

Potatoes O’Brien with Flame Roasted Pasilla Peppers (for “A Breakfast with Pedro O’Brien”)

This dish is quick to make and the clean up is easy. Simply, fire roast the peppers over a gas burner until the skin blackens and then allow them to steam themselves to contentment in a paper bag. The rest of the prep is fast.

One essential tool is a cast iron pan. The other is the brown paper bag.

2 large white potatoes
1 medium sweet or brown onion chopped
1 or 2 pasilla peppers
Olive oil for sautéing the taters, we prefer to use a light Spanish oil
Sea salt to taste
Ground green peppercorns (or substitute black)

Turn on a gas burner to a medium flame. Using tongs place the pepper directly on the burner. If you are nimble you can do two at one time. The skin should blacken nicely but be sure to turn on your fan or otherwise at some point you will set off your smoke alarm. Place the finished peppers in the bag and roll the top closed. Now go to work on your prep.

Chop the onion and set aside. Peel the potatoes. It’s okay to leave a bit of skin on for color and flavor. Dice the potatoes. If you have a blonde standing nearby have her blow on the dice for luck.

Once the peppers are cool enough to handle remove them from the bag and rub off most of the skin. Again, it’s okay to leave some on. Cut off the stem end(s) and remove the seeds. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and then slice the meat into strips. And if you have a stripper nearby…oh, never mind.

Heat up your cast iron skillet. Cover the bottom in olive oil and bring it to the point where it shimmers but doesn’t smoke. Now add the potatoes and begin to brown them up. After a minute or so add the chopped onions and allow those to get some color. Season with the salt and pepper. You will need to turn the mixture with a spatula from time to time. Once the potatoes begin to attain the al dente stage place a lid over the pan so that a little steaming action takes place. Don’t keep it on too long.Then check for texture and seasoning. When it tastes good, plate it up with a little hot sauce on the side.

Notes: We prefer pasilla peppers because they have a rich flavor without a lot of heat. For this dish they are much better than green bell peppers which take longer to blacken because they have a thicker skin and also a less complex flavor.
Other flavor options might be some chopped cilantro or chopped parsley.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In the hood but off the menu...


Pierino loves his neighborhood gang. Like really. Like a whole lot.

Chef Amber Caudle at Mediterraneo does very fine cooking. I've blogged Med before. A few nights ago I came in hungry, sat at the bar with my books as company.

Pierino had planned to order from the menu. BUT Chef Amber turned the tables with a wonderful seared scallop dish plated in a sauce that could have been an aioli but that it was made with saffron. Saffron is Pierino's favorite ingredient in the entire history of the cooking world.

Amber followed that course with a very nice pasta putanesca.

The chef does also make a really great Spanish style tortilla as an appetizer. Pierino has figured out the secret but he's not going to share it yet. Not without the chef's go ahead

Peace, Love and especially love your Chefs. You need them more than you might think. And they need you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Breakfast with the Quaker


Pierino typically doesn't eat a big breakfast. Normally we have a cup of coffee or a brioche and read the newspaper. Courtesy of Food Buzz and its Taste Maker program "Eggs in Purgatory" received some nifty samples of a new Quaker Oats product, "True Delights" granola bars.

Pierino likes them. Especially after having endured a lifetime's worth of "free" hotel breakfasts. Something about the smell of BHT in the communal breakfast room has always sent him scurrying back to his guest room. Hopefully clutching something other than USA Today.

But an oat bar in the morning goes really well with a cup of coffee. We liked the fact that the nuts were visible and added some excellent flavor and crunch. Our favorite was the "Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut."

Back to the Times

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Trippa alla Romana



As Pierino likes to point out, honeycomb tripe is the second stomach of "your favorite ruminant." And it tastes good so why not eat more of it? Marcella Hazan had this to say on the subject:

“At one time tripe was so popular that restaurants used to specialize in it, preparing it in a score of different ways. One of reasons it has become such a rare item may be that people no longer know how to prepare it. When you know how to go about it, tripe rewards you with tenderness so succulent, and a fragrance so appetizing, that more expensive cuts of meat cannot match.” ----ESSENTIALS OF CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKING

While Pierino has been off on one of his visits to Purgatory---he seems to like it there. Apparently they have a bootleg satellite set up so he is able catch the Italian football---Pasquino has been doing the cooking. This time it's a Roman classic.

Trippa alla Romana includes a number of favorite Roman flavors: celery (lots), hot pepper, mint, pecorino and parmigiano, and of course "trippa."

Because it's Roma there is plenty to argue about. But the basic recipe goes like this: take one to two pounds of honeycomb tripe, rinse it off and cut it into strips about 3" long. Cover it in cold water and simmer for about 2 hours. Meanwhile saute some chopped onion, some whole cloves of garlic lightly smacked, and some chopped celery in olive oil. Have that ready for when your tripe has finished its initial cooking.

To your soffrito of onion, celery etc add one or two dried red peppers or hot chili flakes to your liking. Add the drained trippa and raise the heat to medium. Add one cup of tomato sauce along with any leftover celery leaves. Partially cover and cook until tender. Grate equal amounts of pecorino romano and parmigiano cheese into a bowl. To the cheeses now add a lot of chopped mint and mix thoroughly.

Serve your tripe in bowls and finish each portion with a generous amount of cheese and mint.

Pasquino purchased 1 pound of tripe for about $3.00. And Roma beat Palermo 1-2 upon the return of Totti to the starting team.

---Pasquino

Sunday, January 18, 2009

il poeta e il diavolo e il pollo, Part Two


Pierino woke up with the blessing of beautifully smoke flavored leftovers from his wood roasted chicken. What to do?

One solution was to think about the oak wood flavor that still lingered in the chicken flesh. We went with our Tortilla Flats Enchilada Pie. Simple.

Buy a bag of corn tortillas, one ten ounce can of red enchilada sauce (Las Palmas is pretty easy to find),gruyere or jack cheese shredded on a box grater, red onion chopped. You are in business.

Begin by pulling off nice pieces of meat from the chicken carcass---still carrying its smokey residue. Shred by hand and set aside in a bowl. Into another bowl pour the enchilada sauce. Have an oven ready deep cooking dish handy.

Take a tortilla and drag it through the sauce and place it in your cooking dish. Add chicken, cheese a bit of onion and repeat until the dish is full or you run out of either chicken or tortillas. Pour over any remaining sauce. Top with more chopped onion. That jar of Spanish pimento stuffed olives that has been lurking the refrigerator comes in handy now. Slice them across the equator and scatter over the top.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Optional garnish could be chopped cilantro or sliced, grilled scallions.

Pierino is missing Pasquino's trippa alla romana but he'll have to tell you about it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

il poeta e il diavolo e il pollo, Part One


Pierino is still in seclusion reading the poet and thinking---about how Roma will finish in the Champions League. From his seasonably warm location on Wednesday he did watch AS Roma defeat Sampdoria 2-0 in a make up game.

During the afternoon Pierino grilled a whole, spatchocked chicken over a wood fire. First Pierino cut out the back bone and saved it for stock. He also saved that little package of inards. This is basic Roman il diavolo cooking. Pierino placed his chicken in a large zip-lock bag; but before doing so he rubbed the chicken all over with olive oil, coarse salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Into the bag he added the juice of four Meyer lemons. That went into the refrigerator (il frigerifero)for 2 1/2 hours.

Outside, over a wood charcoal fire Pierino grilled and roasted his whole bird. It came out beautifully with enough leftovers for la cucina recessionista.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rapini with Penne

This is less recipe than a lesson in frugal cooking. It wasn't so very long ago that the only form of "broccoli" you could find in the market had fat woody stems and smelled like sulphur when you cooked it.

In Italy the term "broccoli" covers a multitude of sins---but also varieties, especially in the south. Today broccoli rabe/rapini is readily available. Pasquino and his nephew suggest you try this sometime. Typically a dish like this would be made with orecchiette (little ears) but most short pasta forms such as mezze penne will work.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the rapini and when the water is boiling add a handful of salt and plunge the rapini into the pot. Meanwhile have a large bowl of cold water standing by. After about a minute remove the broccoli rabe from the pot and plunge it in the water to shock it and set the color. Wrap it in towels to dry. SAVE THE WATER YOU'VE BLANCHED THE RAPINI IN.

Take one or two links of hot Italian sausage and remove the sausage from casing and break it into pieces. In a fairly deep 12" pan heat a thin layer of olive oil.Add the sausage to brown, add some chopped garlic to color.

In the same water in which you cooked the broccoli rabe (it should be nice and green)cook your pasta for maybe 9 minutes. Meanwhile add a good splash of red wine to the pan in which you have cooked the pasta and reduce until it almost disappears. Using a long slotted spoon, or ideally a Chinese wire "spider" scoop the pasta and add directly to the pan with the sausage. Add perhaps a splash or two of the water the pasta was cooked in and taste the pasta. If it's ready, season with salt and pepper and a most generous grating of pecorino cheese.

Serve with crusty bread.

----Pasquino

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Zio Pasquino


Pierino had to take some down time but welcomes his uncle Pasquino to take his place. Pasquino is an authenic romanaccio whose name comes from the talking statue near Piazza Bramante. The word "pasquinade" is derived from the snarky invectives against authority posted on the statue. It has a venerable history in Roma going back to the 17th century.

A pasquinade from Hitler's visit to Mussolini

"Povera Roma mia de travertino!
T'hanno vestita tutta de cartone
pè fatte rimirà da 'n'imbianchino
tuo prossimo padrone."

Zio Pasquino felt that his beloved nephew was straying too far from Roma, and cooking fancy French and American dishes. So Pierino will be away for awhile reading the "Purgatorio".

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Blog in Black

Remembering Glenn Goldman

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2009/01/glenn-goldman-r.html

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pierino's New Year's Resolution


2008 for Pierino was a year of wandering or wobbling around trying out everything from any cuisine that caught his eye like a shiny toy in front of a child. Going back to basics and fairly massive historical research we produced a Hoppin John for New Years Day that was completely traditional but a bit too earthy and not for the contemporary palate. Sometimes history gets in the way.

So our resolution is that for 2009 we will be continuing basics but cooking the things that we are already best at and understand well, regional italian, tapas style Spanish, and Southern French (sort of). Stick to what you know. We will still do some wild experiments but you won't hear about 'em. Much.

Buon Anno