Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Of Artichokes and Red Snapper

Yesterday was a gorgeous fall day with temperatures just into the 70s. We took advantage of the late afternoon weather to sit out on the patio and have a glass of Côtes de Gascogne Blanc, before heading inside. After Carter got home, I roasted red snapper topped with artichoke pesto for dinner and despite his protests, Carter wolfed down two huge pieces.

Red Snapper with Artichoke Pesto, Roasted Vegetables, and Saffron Aïoli

Enjoying a Glass of Côtes de Gascogne Blanc Before Dinner

Artichoke Pesto; Corno di Toro Peppers
After relaxing out on the patio, I threw together a quick artichoke pesto by spinning up artichokes, garlic, pine nuts, grated pecorino romano cheese, and extra virgin olive oil in the food processor. I left it pretty thick because I wanted to top the fish with it.

To a big roasting pan, I added a big handful of grape tomatoes, a couple scoops of olives with lupini beans, rings of Corno di Toro peppers from our garden, 3 or 4 cloves of garlic in chunks, some rosemary, and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. I moved all this to the sides of the roasting pan and put four nice pieces of red snapper in the middle of the pan. I spread artichoke pesto on top of the fish and into a very hot oven it went until the fish was cooked, about 20 minutes. I cranked up the broiler just to brown the top of the artichoke crust.

I served the fish sitting on top of a scoop of the roasted vegetables, with a dab of aïoli and a sprig of rosemary for garnish.

Meh. Give me Willamette Pinot Please.
Against my better judgment, I thought we would give California Pinot one more chance. And once again, I should have known better. There is nothing wrong with this Pinot and a lot of people will really love its big plush fruit and high alcohol, but for me, there was too much fruit, too much alcohol, and not enough acid. Bummer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Perfect Fall Sunday

We could not have asked for a better fall day here in the very northern tip of Virginia. The sun was shining most of the day with a few clouds from time to time and a rather nippy breeze out of the southwest. It felt good to put on a jacket for the first time since late spring and it felt even better to be able to sit outside on the patio and enjoy some precious time with Ann, while drinking a bottle of 2009 Linden Hardscrabble Red. I'm afraid this bottle was a little off: it was a bit disjointed with less fruit than usual, more woodiness, and coming off tart. Still, it's been a long time since we wanted to sit outside and drink red wine. Fall is our collective favorite season.

Fall Sunshine and Red Wine

Bread, Cheese, and Hard Chorizo: a Stellar Lunch
When I bought this little Camembert-like goat cheese at the farmers market on Saturday, I texted a picture of it to Ann, who replied, "I'll make a loaf of bread." And a loaf of bread she did make! This one was bacon-gorgonzola: awesome!

Casarecce, Pancetta e Salvia
For dinner, I made the pasta we have been trying to have for three weeks, with my very own pancetta and sage. This last batch of pancetta that I put up, I might have forgotten and left in the cure for at least three weeks rather than the usual week, and it has turned out to be the best pancetta I have ever cured. Delicious, but after months of strictly watching my carbs, extremely filling. Who would have thought that there would be leftovers from 500g of pasta after Ann, I, and Carter got done with it? That wouldn't have happened six months ago!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pepper and Onion Burritos

It's football season and Carter plays on Monday nights, kind of cramping our Monday night dinner style, so I had to think of something quick that I could throw together between getting home from work and rushing off to the game. For some crazy reason, I had burritos on the brain yesterday, even though I am not a huge fan of flour tortillas. But what to fill them with?

And then I remembered, the peppers are coming in hot and heavy from the garden: both the Corno di Toro Rosso and the Jimmy Nardello peppers are in full swing. In the photo below, the cornos are the larger, straighter and darker peppers. The Jimmy Nardellos are redder, smaller, and more curved. They are both awesome peppers and I like to grow both each year, though the smaller Jimmy Nardellos have the best pepper flavor of any I have ever tasted. Here's what Baker Creek Seeds, my supplier, says about Jimmy Nardello:

This fine Italian pepper was grown each year by Giuseppe and Angella Nardiello, at their garden in the village of Ruoti, in Southern Italy. In 1887 they set sail with their one-year-old daughter Anna for a new life in the USA. When they reached these shores, they settled and gardened in Naugatuck, Connecticut, and grew this same pepper that was named for their fourth son Jimmy. This long, thin-skinned frying pepper dries easily and has such a rich flavor that this variety has been placed in "The Ark of Taste" by the Slow Food organization. Ripens a deep red, is very prolific, and does well in most areas.

Bounty from our Garden
So what to do with a bounty of frying peppers? Fry them, of course, with onions. And what completes this trio, especially in a quasi-Italian household? Sausages, of course. But since I was doing burritos, I went with a Salvadoran chorizo rather than sweet Italian sausages. The peppers did not suffer from this!

Peppers, Onions, Chorizo, and Slivered Garlic Frying
I wanted a touch of cheese in my burritos, but fresh cheeses really don't agree with me. I know that Ann would have loved some gooey mozzarella in her burrito, but I can't do it. So I got a bag of grated cotija, the Mexican equivalent of Parmigiano Reggiano, and sprinkled a bit over. Cotija adds a texture that Parmigiano does not.

Burrito with Cotija Before Rolling

Glen Manor/Panzanella

Sunday September 7th was one of those beautiful fall days that we dream about all summer. After it being 93 degrees and nearly 100 percent humidity the day before, a welcome cold front blew through in the night bringing both rain and delightful temperatures. I noticed right away on Sunday morning when taking the dogs out that I didn't walk into a wall of water in the air as I had done the entire week before, the hottest and most miserably humid of the summer.

Based on that miserable weather, Ann and I had planned to picnic on Sunday up on Skyline Drive (which you can see just below the ridgeline in the photo below), up at elevation to get away from the heat. I had already put a bottle of Côtes de Gascogne Blanc in the freezer to chill for the picnic. But after we both went outside on the patio for morning coffee, I told her that the cold nip in the breeze was not white wine drinking weather, that it was decidedly red wine drinking weather and suggested that we scrap Skyline and go rather to Glen Manor and drink red wine and look up the mountain. No complaints from her!

Early Fall at Glen Manor (see the bird netting on the vines?)
We were the first to arrive at the tasting room, about 12:15 and got to spend about a half an hour catching up with Jeff and Kelly before people started showing up, at which point we took a bottle of T. Ruth red blend and our container of panzanella out on the lawn and pulled up a couple Adirondack chairs to take in the view for the next three hours or so. At times, the breeze was downright nippy, but on the whole, I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Our Mini Feast: Panzanella, Water, and T. Ruth
I had big plans to throw together a proper picnic menu. I was going to fry some quail, devil some quail eggs, and make a little potato salad. I was, I promise. But Saturday got away from me in that we had a bunch more prep at the restaurant than we had anticipated and so the end of dinner service Saturday night arrived with me having prepped nada for our picnic.

Serendipitous Panzanella
As I was packing away my station for the weekend, I noticed a container of croutons on the counter, unloved and unneeded, having been used as salad garnish some weeks ago when we actually had salad greens. August heat is most unkind to salad greens and it is very rare that we would have a green salad on the menu during that month.

And next to the bin of croutons were several balls of unsold fresh mozzarella that we had made right before dinner. [<rant>I'm just going to say it here: customers are knuckleheads. You can get Insalata Caprese at the restaurant for about 6 weeks a year. Order it when you see it!</rant>] And then I remembered that I had a bin full of chopped salad that would not carry through the weekend. And there you have it: instant panzanella.

You should have seen Ann freak out when I covered the croutons in water: she loves, loves, loves croutons! I soaked them for a minute and squeezed them out, diced the mozz and added it, and then poured over the chopped salad and gave the whole a big stir. A bit of salt and a touch more olive oil finished it.

The chopped salad is made from cucumbers; red, yellow, black, and green tomatoes; red, yellow, and purple peppers, a couple ears of corn, and sliced queen olives, all dressed with olive oil, sherry vinegar, minced garlic, and salt.

Linguini with Clam Sauce

It felt good to get back in the kitchen yesterday, if only for a few minutes to make a late afternoon lunch of linguini with white clam sauc...