Saturday, December 31, 2011

10-9-8-7-6- . . . . Counting Down To The New year

We waved goodbye to 2011 with our version of oysters rockefeller. Oven roasted bivalves topped with sautéed spinach, a flavored butter of parmesan cheese, crushed red peppers, hot sauce, lemon juice, wine, garlic parsley and shallots. They are topped off with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and popped in the oven until the butter melts and the tops are just browned. A new house favorite.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thick Pork Chops For A Winter's Night

Not quite photogenic, but this dish was a real winner. I actually followed a recipe (okay I added a pinch of cayenne the recipe didn't call for) a straight forward creation by Tyler Florence for Thick pork chops with spiced apple and raisins. Brown sugar brined pork chops, quickly seared and baked in the oven are topped with a warm compote of apples (you know we have a few of those around) and unexpectedly, raisins. Warm, wintery, hearty and delicious.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spaghetti With Braised Kale

This time of year kale is one of the things at the farmers market that is truly beautiful not just a reminder of what spring vegetables can be. In the winter our little market thins out. Fewer ingredients and more options for a breakfast snack. But the kale, chard, arugula and broccoli still call out from the stands.
Tonight I took beautiful kale and braised it in olive oil. The dish started as many or most of my dishes do with olive oil in a hot pan. I stirred chopped garlic and shallots in the hot pan for just about 30 seconds. I added the shredded kale to the pan and sautéed five minutes. Next went in a cup of water and I covered the pan and let the kale simmer for about 10 minutes until it was nice and tender. Then I added the drained pasta and some of the cooking water to the pan, gave it a good stir and topped James' dinner with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It Grows On Trees

From our new bedroom window I can see our apple tree brimming with big, red and yellow apples. Now James will happily eat an apple a day of sweet crisp apples like Fuji or Pink Lady. Though their variety is as of yet unidentified these are certainly cooking apples. Not too sweet and a bit mealy at this point I am trying to come up with recipes to make use of our bounty (aside from tossing them to the happy cows that graze along our fence). So far I've made apple cake, apple sauce, and I'm looking at a New Year's morning with apple muffins or apple pancakes. But for now there is an ever growing bag of apples waiting for me.
Tonight I opted for a savory dish. If pork chops and apple sauce are a famous combination, I pondered, why not pork stew with apples. I just happened to have port stew meat in the freezer. AFter a very quick internet search I happened along on a "harvest" stew and based on dinner on this recipe.
I started with hot oil in a pan and browned the pork. Next I added in chopped onions and garlic, crushed red peppers, shopped rosemary, fresh thyme, and plenty of chopped sage. When the onions were softened I added in chicken broth, brought the whole pot up to a boil and then let the meat simmer for about 20 minutes, covered. Next I added in cubed butternut squash, apples and potatoes and again let the pot simmer, this time uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
In the end we had a warm, cozy stew that was a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy and just right for a foggy cool winter day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quick Sauté

Shrimp are fast, delicious, and easy to cook. I'm not sure why I don't make them more often . . . Tonight I started heating a pan and added in butter and olive oil. After the butter had finished foaming I tossed in chopped shallot, oregano, crushed red peppers, hot sauce, and plenty of garlic (seem like my usual recipe for seafood). Next the peeled deveined shrimp went in and started to pink up. When I turned the shrimp I poured in a splash of Guinness left over from our christmas cake and I let the mixture bubble until the shrimp were cooked through. I finished the sauce with an extra pat of butter for good measure. Perfect with bread or rice or even on a toothpick. Dinner in seven minutes or less.

Monday, December 26, 2011

House Favorite, Local Treat

Grilled oysters. James' specialty.
We usually pop them on the grill and invite a few hundred of our closest friends for a feast. Tonight it was just us two and a little drizzly so I moved our BBQ inside and roasted a dozen big, beautiful, local oysters in the oven. After about 15 minutes at 450 they had popped open enough for me to pull off the top, flat shell. I dressed each oysters with a pat of flavored butter. Tonight I made a combo of butter, salt, pepper, crushed red peppers, hot sauce, cayenne, lemon juice, chives, plenty of garlic and parmesan cheese. I drizzled them with a bit of olive oil and popped the tray back into the oven for about 5 minutes until the butter melted and the cheese was starting to toast. We ate our oyster treat with plenty of garlic bread to soak up the flavorful butter. James said "Wow."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Local Dinner With Christmas Duck

Our first Christmas in the new house. I wanted something memorable and still manageable --given the state of our not so, let's say, elegant kitchen. One quick trip to the weekly farmer's market brought home a treasure trove of ingredients: wild arugula, fingerling potatoes, baby turnips, cauliflower, pomegranates, shallots, and a fresh Muscovy duck. After pricking the skin all over with a fork I popped our duck in the oven, seasoned with salt and pepper; the cavity filled with shallots, garlic and thyme. He roasted for about 2 1/2 hours at 400º with me turning him breast side up or down every 45 minutes. I really wanted to cook the duck slowly -- more like 5 hours at 300º or 350º. With just one oven and a cake to bake I had to sacrifice a bit of the slow cooked taste for a nice early Christmas dinner. That's what I get for laying in bed watching Christmas movies instead of jumping up and baking. For the last hour of roasting I tossed the peeled turnips and halved fingerling potatoes in with the duck to roast in the rich fat. Just before the duck was cooked through I coated the skin with a delicate honey lemon glaze. I used that same glaze along with a dash of balsamic vinegar and, yes I admit it, a drizzle of duck fat instead of olive oil to dress the salad.
Along side the duck, offering a bit of creamy sauce to the dark meat, a cauliflower and endive gratin. The vegetables baed for more than an hour (I started them raw) in a cheesy mornay sauce brimming with nutty gruyere and fresh marjoram.
Though I am not really much for tradition, every year I make the same cake for Christmas. A gooey, spicy gingerbread from a recipe by Claudia Flemming, former pastry chef during Tom Coliccio's reign, of Gramercy Tavern. Flemming's recipes are simple, straight forward and brimming with flavor. Flavored with Guinness stout and molasses James is always happy to see this cake on the table. It's so easy and quick I am always happy to make it -- but I save it for once a year . . . most times.
Merry Christmas Honey.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Old Favorite For Christmas Eve

I finally made it home today. And so, coming so close to the holiday I wanted something simple and still special for James' dinner. We love crabs. It's crab season. Christmas and crabs.
I marinated halved and cracked crabs in a paste made from toasted fennel seeds, parsley, crushed red peppers, garlic, thyme and olive oil. After a couple hours in the fridge I popped the crabs in a 400º oven for 15 minutes. For a holiday twist after five minutes in the oven I added in a handful of fresh clams to pop open in the oven and share the flavorful marinade.
For dessert, still waiting for James is a simple apple (from our tree), raisin, and cranberry crisp. Just waiting for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Picture From Home

Friendly hellos along the back fence.
I can't wait to get back.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Basque In Bakersfield

Noriega's might be the most unlikely James Beard award winner ever. Deemed an "American Classic" by the esteemed New York organization, the Bakersfield, CA dining hall has been serving three meals a day (except Monday) since the late 1800's.
Before lunch is served at noon or dinner at 7pm, diners (and a few boarders who still call the Noriega hotel home) gather in the bar drinking house-made wine, cocktails and the Basque classic Picon punch (a combination of brandy, grenadine and bitter orange liquor) waiting to be called to one of 3 long, long tables. More than a dining hall, and not quite a restaurant Noriega's is essentially an elaborate dinner party orchestrated by co-owner Linda McCoy. Greeting friends and strangers with the same warm manner the proprietor sized up the crowd and seated her guests where she thought everyone would most enjoy the meal. "I'm going to put you next to someone interesting," she assured me and scooted me along to a table beside people she determined to be interesting conversationalists. She was right.
When you arrive at the table it's already laid with an assortment of sides; family style to be passed around and shared. You get to know you dining companions while passing bread and serving each other the light cabbage and pasta soup. For the first course the table was already groaning with pickled tongue, marinated carrots, beans (good in the soup), salad, Basque-style cottage cheese, and tangy blue cheese.
Noriega's make one menu a meal. Sunday evening brings hearty beef stew (more of a pot au feu or pot roast than anything I recognize as beef stew) and baked chicken with glistening, crispy skin.
Dishes just keep coming out: spaghetti with a Basque-syle, slightly sweet tomato sauce, cauliflower drenched in tangy mayonnaisey dressing, and delicious dark golden brown crisp french fries. I'm sure no one has ever left Noriega's hungry.
To be honest the food is good but maybe not great. But from the cheerful bar to the dark skinned thick eye-browed fellows speaking Basque at the end of the table the Bakersfield institution is by far the most fun and the most food you can have for $20.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Motel Snacks

I've been gone along time. I've been half way around the world on a job. James is at home and has run out of meals I packaged in the freezer. Instead of dreaming of sugarplums I'm daydreaming about what I am going to cook when I get back to my little kitchen on the pasture. A kitchen that used to seem woefully inadequate is starting to seem like a distant dream compared to the motel mini-fridges and supermarket salad that have dotted this job. Stay tuned for roast duck, multi-layered lasagnas, cioppino, and chestnuts roasted on our new wood stove.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Seasonal Salad

Sometimes I serve this riff on a salad from Chez Panisse as one course for Thanksgiving dinner. This year I conjured up a version as a way to serve up the last of the leftover turkey breast (okay some was tucked away in little TV dinner style containers in the freezer for James). It's as simple as it is fresh, fall-worthy, and delicious. I combined chopped turkey with pomegranate seeds, sliced persimmons, endive (in this case curly and Belgian but usually just Belgian) and toasted, roughly chopped walnuts. I dressed the salad with a quick vinaigrette of one part sherry vinegar (mixed with salt and pepper) to four parts olive oil.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Something For A Sunday

I know, we just made it past a big bird holiday. But, does that really mean it's not time for roast chicken. No stuffing, just simply roasted with lots of salt and pepper, Thomas Keller style. The perfect Sunday night dinner any time of the year.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Better With Pork Belly

Not too long ago I ordered a 1/4 pig to put in our freezer. Instead of the luscious chunk of pork belly I was expecting to cure into pancetta I got slices. Slices? I admit I was monetarily stumped. Of course I could sauté pieces with kimchi or hoisin sauce, or try and replicate Momofuko's crazy delicious pork buns. But that wasn't quite right. I tucked the meat away until I found a mention online of "holiday spaghetti" with crisped pork belly (sautéed in butter and olive oil), slivered garlic and parmesan tossed with hot pasta. What could be wrong with that? the pork belly made crispy little nuggets in the al dente pasta and the rendered fat coated the noodles to perfection. That's what you do with sliced pork belly . . . Italian style.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day After Soup

I do it every year. The day after thanksgiving I take the turkey carcass and make a rich stock. Then a make a warming, wintery soup.
This year our soup was chock full of root vegetables: celery root, carrots, potatoes, parsnips and turnips and finished with swiss chard, corn, and of course plenty of chopped turkey.
A Thanksgiving tradition the day after.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: An Adventure In Moving

The local slow food chapter near our new house has an annual turkey sale where they partner up with 4H kids who raised the birds. The checks are written directly to the future farmer. Naturally, in spite of the fact that most of my kitchen is still in boxes and we were doing the final move this same week, I went ahead and ordered a bird. How could I resist? This 9 pounder I'm pretty sure was the smallest bird I have ever cooked. I was worried it might be dry so I slathered it both under the skin and on top with a parsley thyme butter that gave a nice flavor to the red wine gravy I served on the side.
The stuffing was chestnut and pear with both country white and wheat breads. Not much room for stuffing in this little guy so I had extra on the side.
You wouldn't believe it from the picture but these biscuits are never fail magic. Based on a recipe by CookWise author Shirley Corriher, a tireless researcher and pursuer of cooking perfection, these biscuits are light and take no rolling. Instead the very wet dough is scooped out, rolled in a bit of flour and baked to fluffy perfection.
Maple glazed brussels sprouts and chestnuts. What could be bad about that? Slightly bitter vegetables with a slight sweet glaze tempered by a dash of cider vinegar. I love chestnuts and having a second excuse to serve them always makes me happy.
Next to the brussels sprouts were leek and thyme mashed potatoes -- a big hit.
Thanksgiving has to have pie. Usually more than one. This year I just wasn't in the mood for pumpkin and I kept looking at the sweet potatoes on the counter and decided on a sweet potato pie with a pecan crust. Not quite as easy as opening that orange can, but flaky sweet and ready for ice cream just the same.
Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tomorrow Is A Big Day

And so a simple French style salad for dinner. Deliciously bitter frisée, gently sweet pears, and delicate pan fried boudin blanc all tossed in a balsamic and red wine vinaigrette.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New House New Pizza New Oven

Potatoes, chili peppers, red onions, garlic, ham, and smoked mozzarella on a crispy crust.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Diet Dinner

My latest self imposed kitchen challenge is to try and make low calorie food that actually tastes good. Food that I'm not just willing to but actually look forward to eating. Steaming is the dieter's friend but rarely adds a flavor punch. I decided to start with mussels one of my favorite foods -- and they take a long time to eat which makes you feel like you've eaten more I think. Anyway, instead of starting with a pot slicked with olive oil and butter for a white wine based sauce I went for tomatoes. I put all my sauce ingredients into the pot at once -- canned tomatoes (from our front yard patch), garlic, chopped onion, oregano, a dollop of tomato paste, a splash of chicken broth and a bit of red wine. I covered the pot and cooked over low heat until the tomatoes were soft and broken down. Then I added in the mussels and steamed for 7 minutes until the shells opened. For James I drizzled on a little olive oil and toasted some bread. For me, steamed broccoli on the side.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Sure Sign Winter Is Coming

Like Thanksgiving and the crisp turn in the air, Meyer lemons are a sure sign that winter is coming. I love this hardy little tree, producing dozens of sweet fragrant lemons from a pot on our patio. Can I take her with me?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Winter Greens

Cool days and a bit of rain make for beautiful crisp lettuces and greens.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Spaghetti With Local Mushrooms

I forgot about this dinner. Not too long ago I was literally seduced by mushrooms on the produce stand shelf or by the big black letter screaming local on the nearby sign.
I don't think I have ever cooked these trumpet mushrooms before. They are meaty and still mildly flavored. Being local to our new hood I wanted to do them justice and sautéed them with butter, olive oil, leeks, fresh thyme, and garlic. I poured in a good dose of red wine and let it reduce and then finished my impromtu spaghetti topping with a bit more butter. A few strands of aged Two Rock Valley goat cheese from nearby DeBernardi Dairy added just the right complement to the mushroom's earthy flavor.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pork N' Beans?

I started with bag of dried borlotti beans (I had already soaked them) and a crock pot. The chore list was pretty long today and having something that would cook away without my attention seemed like a plus.
I mixed the drained beans with sprigs of fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 quartered onion, 2 stalks of celery (cut into 2 inch pieces, 3 fresh bay leaves, 2 quartered tomatoes, a splash of olive oil and one large potato, peeled and halved in the crock pot. I covered it all with water and left the beans to simmer on low for about 1o hours. When the beans were tender I fished out the celery, tomato, potato, onion, and -- based on a recipe I saw Jamie Oliver make -- mashed them together with S&P and olive oil and added the mixture back into the pot to thicken the bean's liquid.
I served the beans resting on thick sourdough toast and topped with a pork chop quickly marinated in oregano, lemon, thyme and olive oil. Using the method I generally rely on for steaks, I quickly seared the chop on both sides in a hot skillet on the stove and finished in a 450º oven.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Neighbors Bearing Gifts

A couple days ago our neighbor down the road, Sally, reached a big bag of apples over our back fence. Sally and her husband Mike run a "you-pick" apple orchard and on the weekends folks drive out from town for their hnand-picked share of the country.
James is aways happy to have apples to eat out of hand (especially topped wth peanut butter and raisins) but since we had so many and since I am still getting on good terms with this oven, I decided to try a cake. I am still the same lazy cook I was in our last kitchen and with no mixer on the counter (we still have boxes to unpack) I wanted an easy mix (no butter to cream) cake and zeroed in on a recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen, a moist long cooking oil instead of butter (a Jewish-style apple cake) cake.
James loves the combination of slightly crispy sweet crust and the cinnamon flavored butter soft apples.
It's good to have neighbors . . . neighbors with fruit trees.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chorizo And Rice

It's startling to me the creativity that living without a dishwasher brings out. It's been a long, long time since I washed dishes (all the dishes) in the sink and the array of one pot dinners that race through my mind makes me both proud and ashamed.
Tonight I took some fresh chorizo (another farmer's market find) and sautéed it in olive oil until browned, about 3 minutes. I added in a bag of shrimp (defrosted from Trader Joe's) and cooked everything for a couple minutes more until the shrimp were just turning pink. I took the shrimp and sausage out of the pan and set them aside while I added in a bit more oil, 1 chopped onion, and 3 thinly sliced cloves of garlic. I let the onion cook for about 4 minutes until nice and soft and then added in 3 1/4 cups water and 2 cups of basmati rice and brought the liquid up to a boil. I covered the pot and let the rice simmer for about 18 minutes until just cooked through. I added the chorizo and shrimp back into the pot long with 1/4 cup of chopped parsley and a little S&P, gave everything a good fluff and let the rice steam for 5 minutes more off the heat.
The pictures are still a little rough but dinner is cooing up nicely.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chicken Dinner

I clearly have not gotten the hang of photography in my new kitchen yet. I never thought I would, but oh how I miss the clean blue light of my Viking range hood. Nevertheless dinners are inching up to our old standard.
Tonight I offered James creamy parmesan polenta topped with a pan fried chicken breast cutlet, coated in panko crumbs and plenty of fresh herbs. On the side a sautéed tangle of Romano beans scored at the nearby farmers market. Working loosely off a recipe from Chez Panisse I started some olive oil heating in a pan and flavored it by letting chopped shallot and garlic sauté in the oil for about 3 minutes. I removed the aromatics and added in the beans, cut in to 2 inch lengths, along with a sprig of rosemary, some dried oregano and fresh thyme (the original recipe called for only fresh oregano but we didn't have any)-- and tossed it all around in the oil (here and there) for about 10 minutes until they were just tender and brown in spots. Then I added back in the garlic and shallots along with two small chopped tomatoes and cooked the mixture for about 2 minutes more. After cooling for a minute or so I drizzled the beans with about a tsp of balsamic vinegar and served the dish room temperature over the hot polenta.
James went back for seconds.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pork Potatoes Paprika

It seems my recent trip to Hungary did have some lasting effect, at least culinarily. While trying to decide on a warming, stew dinner dish I kept drifting back to a Goulash recipe I had saved from the LA Times recipe request column. Now I am certainly no expert but I did indulge in a few bowls of goulash while across the pond. In contrast to this recipe from the Blue Jam Cafe in Los Angeles, which the reader swore was the most authentic he had eaten, the goulash I sampled in Hungary was a red-brothed light soup with tender bits of pork served alongside delicious buttery spaetzle. My version, following the restaurant's recipe was thick, full of pork and potatoes, and delicately flavored with caraway and paprika, Hungary's favorite spice. Just the thing for a cool fall night.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pot Of Beans

This has been a soupy week. I'm not sure if it's the nip in the air or that most of my sauté pans are in my old kitchen or the lack of dishwasher (soupy meals are good one pot options) but somehow every night lately dinner has been in a bowl. I tried to break out tonight. No luck. Somehow the Italian sausage in the fridge (another treat from our friends at Chileno valley Ranch) turned into a bean stew with plenty of fresh herbs and tomatoes canned from our garden.
I sautéed smashed garlic cloves in olive oil and then browned sausage meatballs in the hot oil. I added in chopped rosemary, thyme, and crushed red peppers followed by two cans of beans (drained) and then 1 cup of reserved liquid added back in, 2 sage leaves, and a pint jar of tomatoes. I let everything simmer for 15 minutes covered and then another 10 uncovered to try and reduce the sauce.
A little soupy but pretty tasty. You can see not much was left.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What's In A Name

I don't have any idea why Mario Batali calls this recipe Bread Soup. There is no bread in the actual soup, just grilled slices served on the side (I topped ours with cheese). No matter, it wasn't the bread in the title that caught my attention. It was farmwife. Farmwife's bread soup Batali called it, as if he was speaking directy to me. I am a sucker for recipes with rustic, cozy names. Grandma's layer cake, Sheepherder's bread, Farmwife bread soup . . . it's just recipe marketing but it always gets my attention. As I said, I am a sucker.
Tonight I fell for this quick recipe. Sliced onions (1) and chopped garlic (2 cloves) are sautéed in plenty of olive oil (1/3 cup) until soft but not colored. Next go in two peeled, chopped potatoes (I cut into about 1/2 in dice), then sea salt, crushed red peppers, and 2 cups of chopped beet greens. Though he wouldn't eat a beet on a dare, James loves the tasty greens. Everything in the pot sautés for a couple minutes and then go in 4 cups of water (Batali called for 2 but I don't see how that is possible) and a bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. The original recipe ends there and advises to serve the soup with grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top. I embellished and poached a few eggs in the simmering soup liquid. What farmwife, I reasoned, wouldn't have a few eggs around the kitchen? And, the yolks added a bit of richness to the otherwise slightly spare winter soup.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Don't Eat With Your Eyes

This is undoubtedly one of the least appetizing plates of spaghetti I have ever made. I saw the recipe for Bucatini with Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts in Food and Wine Magazine from Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri and knew right away it was a dish James would love. Crisp beautiful vegetables sautéed in olive oil and flavored with thyme, rosemary, garlic and anchovies. The magazine picture, bursting with color and jumping of the page, displayed the perfect winter vegetable dish. Perhaps I left the lid on too long or maybe my veggies cooked too long. Although delicious and a recipe I will definitely repeat -- our "sauce" (or condimento as Mario Batali would say) came out slightly grey. From a distance it almost looked like a bowl of sauerkraut topped with cheese. Nobody wants that. Mercifully James has come to trust me and dug right into the pallid mixture. His faith was rewarded with tender vegetables coated with peppery olive oil, zesty from the anchovies.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crock Pot Roast

I'm still a bit unsure about our new oven. I didn't want to chance an oven braise but I did want a worry-free, long cooking, prepare in advance dish for dinner. One pot to wash would be a plus in our new dishwasher-less world. No dishwasher and no spices . . . and still dinner must be made.
I spotted a link of hard chorizo in the fridge and thought that would add some flavor where spice was missing. I chopped that up and let it sauté/ render in a pan until just a bit crisp and then added the chorizo to the crock pot along with several chopped cloves of garlic, 2 sliced onions, 2 small carrots (peeled and cut in to 2 inch lengths), fresh thyme, and fresh bay leaves. I browned the meat (a large piece of boneless chuck) in the fat from the rendered chorizo and placed it over the onions in the pot. Since I had a good bunch of "wild" mushrooms I chopped them up and added them to my pot roast in the making. I covered it all with red wine and set the crock pot on high for about 6 hours. When dinnertime came around all I had to do was boil some spuds for a quick batch of olive oil mashed potatoes and put dinner on a plate.
The challenge of a new kitchen.
Cook 1 kitchen 0 . . . so far.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken In A Pot

James and I both love San Francisco's Zuni Cafe. Who doesn't? The entree to order at Judy Rodgers' Market Street institution is the roast chicken with bread salad, for two. For the full Zuni experience many diners start with fresh oysters and a caesar salad. Everything there is so good and made with such prime fresh ingredients that I am always trying to bring a little of the Zuni dining experience home to our table. I often thumb through Rodgers' lovely cookbook (a gift from James) looking for inspiration and recipes.
While paging through recipes I had collected I found a knock off, a recipe imitating Rodgers' chicken triumph and decided to give it a try. I mixed bread cut into 1 inch cubes, chopped black kale (the recipe called for chard), golden raisins, capers, chopped garlic and sliced shallots with a good quantity of olive oil, S&P and tossed the ingredients toether. I placed that mixture in my cast iron chicken pot and on top placed my chicken cut into 8 pieces. I covered the chicken (after seasoning of course) with parchment paper. With the pot's glass lid tightly on, the dish went into bake at 350º for 40 minutes. Next I raised the temperature to 425º and with the chicken uncovered continued to bake for 20 minutes until the skin was crackling crisp.
No it's not quite Zuni, a pale imposter to be honest. But it didn't take the 2 days that Rodgers' recipes requires or the nearly 2 hours roasting time. In our new little kitchen, still barely unpacked and ill-equiped it was a fond reminder of the good life on Market Street and a promise of many homemade dinners to come.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Della Fattoria: Petaluma, CA

Okay so it was brunch and James wasn't even there but the food at Della Fattoria in downtown Petaluma is so good I can't help but mention it.
Although it's only permanent outpost is hidden in a small downtown cafe (the actually baking location is offsite), primarily Della Fattoria is a bakery. In fact, Bon Appetit Magazine called it one of the 10 Best Bread Bakeries in the country. I heartily agree. Their wood fired breads are chewy on the outside and airy inside. Artsanal loaves so perfect I see no reason to bake bread when I am in the area.
Their Meyer Lemon Rosemary loaf, the bakery's most famous offering, is already legendary. Chewy crumb with a touch of tangy sweetness that makes any sandwich a special event. But the cast of supporting characters from Semolina dusted with insanely fragrant sesame seeds to baguettes with crusts so firm they resist a casual tear and cry out for tangy, hearty cheeses. There is not a bad loaf in the bunch.
I like any excuse to stop in for breakfast or lunch (the cafe is open until 3pm and only Fridays for dinner) and take a loaf to go.
A Bacon and Egg Piadina, toasty flat bread wrapped around poached eggs, Black Pig bacon ( a much beloved Sonoma county artisanal producer), cheese and hot sauce. After one bite we declared it "awesome."
I might have dreams about this breakfast dish. Melt in your mouth, creamy, soft polenta topped with perfectly poached eggs, prosciutto, spinach and crunchy breadcrumbs. This is Della Fattoria after all. This is the kind of dish you can't stop eating. The perfect combination of textures and flavors and the attention to detail that makes quirky Della Fattoria a destination eatery.
To be honest, the cafe is small, the service can be a bit distracted (or just plain slow) but the lattes are piping hot and food is just so good when your order arrives you forget everything but the taste.