Make Offal Great Again!

Any fool can whip up a jar or two of chicken liver pâté. Growing up, it was a staple around the house, usually taken with a glass of sherry on Sundays after Mass, and from the age of ten or so, I was allowed a sip, just enough to wet my lips, enough to feel how it was to be a grown up.The combination of dry sherry with chicken liver pâté, taken on an empty stomach, after Mass or not, still sits in my inside pocket pleasure bank of memories, and still, to this day, generates interest and groovy salivations. In fact it’s one of the most pleasant memories I have of being a kid, along with the mischievous pleasure of stealing cigarettes from Sunday visitors, as my parents were strict non-smokers. Mother thought it a fearful habit. Continue reading “Make Offal Great Again!”

Brodo

Spring time is when we tend to lighten our diet. We say goodbye to the comforting foods of winter and welcome again spring onions, asparagus, dandelion greens, radishes and hardy survivor shoots of greens. But spring, as we all know, brings its share of bluster. An untrustworthy, capricious season cut with unstable, schizoid days. A mad time.


Recent hail brought devastation on a biblical scale to the garden. Spring onions were  mercilessly lashed and shredded into submission. Asparagus ferns, who only a day before, were dancing joyfully in the breeze, were cruelly whipped into unrecognizable rags. Parsley didn’t stand a chance; reduced to a choppy clump of humiliated, quasi headless stalks. Chives were decapitated and their purple heads rolled with the hail.
So, it was with uncanny foresight that I happened to harvest enough spring onions and chard the day before the deluge, to make a quick and simple soup with the last of my frozen chicken stock.
Chop spring onions and some garlic and sauté softly in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add chicken stock. Add other greens. I used chard and peas. Season with salt and black pepper. Add a douse of olive oil to the bowl and fill it up with broth. A little shaved Pecorino Romano can be nice on top.

Pipian Verde

 

author photo: Ionah DeFreitas…

When Greens Cafe opened in the mid eighties, one of our signature dishes was grilled chicken breasts with tomatillo sauce. We made the sauce by chopping onions, tomatillos and cilantro, which we blitzed with cumin, salt and chicken stock. It was good and tasty, but, I later realized, a little one-dimensional.

blacken tomatillos and onion on a hot comal…
chiles blistering on an open flame…
suffocate them in their own steam in a plastic or paper bag to loosen the skins…
removing the charred skins…

Years later, while traveling in the Yucatán, Ionah and I had a memorable Sunday lunch in Mérida, in a grand but crumbling old colonial hotel, with toucans and giant palms in the dining room, which was a kind of exotic bird house open to the sky. I kept my hat on and she wore a colorful scarf. Continue reading “Pipian Verde”

Mint pesto with Asparagus, parmigiano-reggiano and a poached egg…

 

Spring time in Denver can be a precarious time, especially if you happen to be a sensitive flower. If someone planted you within the last couple of weeks, during the recent tee-shirt and sandal spell, you would now be a wilted thing and sadly, out of luck: destined to be turned over and forked under the cold, soaked soil, because we just had a late mother of a snow storm. Continue reading “Mint pesto with Asparagus, parmigiano-reggiano and a poached egg…”

On Duck and Wine

duck confit with potatoes and green cabbage salad…

They say the most long lived of the French are those lucky enough to live in Gascony in the south-west. There was a piece on Gascony in The New York Times recently, by David McAninch. His book, “Duck Season: Eating, Drinking and other Misadventures in Gascony, France’s Last Best Place,” just came out. In the article he wrote about what these folks eat and what they drink, which, along with a jovial approach to daily living, seems to affect their longevity. Continue reading “On Duck and Wine”

A Cauliflower Tagine

We eat lots of cauliflower throughout the winter and into early spring. I’ll rub one with a few spices, coat it with olive oil and roast it whole, uncovered, until it has a nice, crunchy coating. This one is roasted in the tagine, so it turns out softer, because of the steam, and is less crunchy than an open roast, but it’s beautiful— fragrant and spicy like a Moroccan steam bath and it cuts like butter with a dull spoon. It barely takes fifteen minutes to prepare and about an hour to cook in the oven.

For the uninitiated, a tagine is a North African conical-shaped portable outdoor earthenware oven. Traditionally, they were placed upon charcoal braziers and slowly cooked by skilled nomadic Berbers.

My base ingredients for a tagine are onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger, cumin, a few cardamom pods, Aleppo pepper, a cinnamon stick, a generous spoon of coconut oil, a handful of prunes, half a preserved lemon, a dash of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a lashing of harissa paste. Sounds like a lot? On Sundays and holy days, I’ll add a pinch of saffron. Continue reading “A Cauliflower Tagine”

A Sunday Morning Omelet

It’s Sunday morning and I’m languishing in the carefree comfort zone of my bed. Ionah’s up and has bread in the oven and is en route to an impossibly early nine o clock yoga class. There’s a situation, she says; a favor to ask; a SNAFU: apparently I have thirty minutes and then — I have to get up. I gotta take the bread out of the oven. She pours me a cup of life affirming Assam tea, hands me the New York Times and leaves the flask. She sets the timer, places it by the bed, wishes me a loving goodbye and is out the door in a flash with her mat strung across her shoulder.

This could have ruined a lesser man’s day, but my cheery disposition got the better of me and as I looked at my options, I made a cold-hearted decision: I wrote off the review, the style section and the book review, and settled on the magazine for Sam Sifton’s one page take on a Jim Harrison recipe for a Caribbean stew — heavy on pork ribs, sausage and chicken thighs. I see myself hovering over an open fire cooking this concoction on the banks of the trout filled Gunnison river, perhaps within a few weeks — an over night trip, a mere five-hour drive from here. Continue reading “A Sunday Morning Omelet”