With weirdly warm weather for December in Denver you might be fooled into fixing yourself a light summer salad.
But tomatoes are a sorry season now. Trucked in hard as a golfer’s balls and green as limes, held sub rosa in holding facilities on the edge of town, gassed repeatedly with ethylene, they emerge vacant and shadowless, they taste of nothing, or next to it, but at least they are red. Continue reading “Another winter salad”→
We flew down the hill to the market on Saturday without worries or care. Crawling home, we peddled in pain, sweat dripping nose to toe, baskets laden with a week’s worth of eats, shoots, and leaves. For this is a market worth supporting.
Every city needs a central market and now, finally, with the help of our farmer friends in Boulder, we too have one that we can call our own. It’s like a little snippet of Boulder in the big city. It’s happy, it’s trippy and it’s seriously organic. Continue reading “Fattoush by bike.”→
Look—to cook, or not to cook, is really the question. Whether ’tis nobler to grunt and sweat over a grill outdoors, or to gnaw like a rabbit on carrots, or expose them to the shock of steam and dress lightly, methinks, in this heat is the answer.
Most vegetables, unlike me, thrive in the heat. Unless you happen to be a sweet pea vine in Denver, in which case you never fail to wither and crack under the pressure. And if you’re a coriander, you deal with it by bolting like lightning at the first twitch of sun inflicted brutality.
I’ve never been big on holidays. I dislike them immensely. It’s a phobia I acquired — like a bad taste in my mouth — from working impossibly long hours, especially on holidays, in the restaurant trade for such a large slice of my life. Customers — would come in on holidays, often with family members, out of obligation, or from out of town — were always double, like extra supersize needy. Suppliers were frequently under-staffed and under-stocked, making deliveries extra stressful. Staff was grumpy, hung over, or, in jail. One night 3 of my cooks were busted for smoking a joint in the alley behind the restaurant by 2 cops on mountain bikes. Fortunately, it was late and we had just closed. After they were taken to be processed and then released 3 hours later, I insisted they come back and clean up the kitchen. It was the night before Memorial day. I still shudder when it comes around. Of course in these Colorado high times, that scenario would no longer apply. Nowadays, maybe you could share your stash with the cops? Continue reading “Our Memorial Day”→
Tahini, a puree of sesame seeds, when blended with cooked chickpeas, and seasoned with lemon juice and garlic is the Mid-East side dish known as Hummus. It’s almost always served as part of the meal, along with other dishes like Tabbouleh, Baba Ghannouj, Fattoush, and lamb or beef. Here in the US we call it a dip and bring it to parties and eat it with chips. Nothing wrong with that.
Spring’s around and It gets into every corner of the garden. I want to be out there and not miss a shoot. That means getting dirty tearing out the dead, digging in the dirt, trimming, weeding, pruning and collecting. The premier crop right now is dandelion. It’s coming up through the cracks in the patio. It’s growing out of the walls in the garage. It’s peeking out of pots where it shouldn’t. You really got to love it, and then you get to eat it. It’s free. It’s killer good, and it’s up there mega on the nutritional scale.
It was the Brits who first brought it here. In those days, it is said, they cleared out the grass to make room for the dandelion so they could have fresh greens in their new digs.
My, how things have changed. Nowadays, people display uncontrollable urges to poison and exterminate the guileless dandelion as if it were lucifer in the flesh himself.
Yesterday for lunch, Ionah produced a beautiful salad of dandelion greens, chick peas, avocado and toasted sunflower seeds — It went something like this.
Chop a little garlic into your salad bowl and add some mustard and red wine vinegar and whisk to emulsify.
Slowly stream in olive oil and whisk until you have enough to coat the greens. Add chopped avocado and some cooked chickpeas.
Toast sunflower seeds in a heavy skillet on medium heat
Spring dandelion greens with mint pesto and tinned anchovies
From the array of challenges facing the Denver culinarian, top of the list surely is the availability of fresh food. I have long ago, for example, stopped buying seafood labeled as fresh from my local Whole Foods or any other supermarket. You should see the pale, pallid crap they market here as salmon.
I make an exception, however, come July and August, when the price for fresh wild Alaska salmon drops to an affordable $20 a pound.
Alaska airlines operate a daily bee line from Anchorage to Denver, and I have a man, Bruce, who has a shop, Seafood Landing, in the old Scottish Highlands neighborhood. He flies it in direct every Tuesday. But that’s as I say, only in August.
Meanwhile, I am happy when the need for seafood arrives, to settle on the many options for tinned fish, especially if it’s packed in olive oil, my favorites being the mighty Portuguese mackerel, Ortiz’s fat sardines packed in glass jars, smoked wild herring from Bar Harbor, Maine, and lest we forget, the petite yet meaty, too often unsung beauties of the sea — anchovies snuggled in their tins with olive oil slime.
In Denver in April, 95% of the vegetable and fruit offerings at our local market, which has the decidedly unappetizing name of The Vitamin Cottage, come from thousands of miles and almost as many countries away. I have kept chard from my garden, for the purpose of experimentation, for 10 days in the fridge, and it looks about the same as what you get in the grocery store — still edible, it looks OK, but it’s not exactly fresh. I know what I’m saying because I used to work in the wholesale produce business. Think about it: After being plucked from the field and washed and cooled — let’s just say organic lacinato kale — it may lie over night in a field cooler awaiting truck’s arrival to bring it down to LA, where it may just as well sit for 2 days before enduring the 20 hour desert crossing and scaling of the rocky mountains, before arriving truck-lagged to a Denver warehouse where it could be delayed another 2 days, and possibly yet another in the store’s walk-in, before ending up in the produce case forlorn but fluffed and dying to be misted. So, really how fresh can that be?
So what’s to eat that’s super fresh and not truck-lagged in Denver in April that’ll make you think you’re eating like any every day, overtly tattooed San Francisco culinary hipster? Sure there’s asparagus, but it’s not from here, not yet anyway, it’s from Mexico and it usually looks a little dried up; the asparagus in my garden is peaking a mere 3 inches out of the ground just about now. The first things to emerge that look anything like spring around here are mint and dandelion.
Both are considered to be weeds by an alarming number of eaters, but both are delicious.
To make a mint pesto, just pick, wash and crush a couple of handfuls of mint leaves with a few cloves of garlic in a mortar or a food processor.
smash it up real good.
Add a handful of nuts. I used roasted peanuts because that’s what was in my fridge, but pine nuts, walnuts or pistachios work just fine.
Smash some more—it feels good.
Stream in a little olive oil and place it in that little container and clean up yer mess.
Dandelion greens, as you know grow low to the ground, so make sure to triple wash them, especially if you are a dog owner,
like a cattle dog owner…
Toss with a little lime juice, some of the pesto and a little more olive oil.
Pry open the anchovies or other tinned fish and place a few filets on the salad. Pour off the remaining liquid into the dog bowl—save it for later— you can mix it with his kibble and a lightly scrambled egg for a nice meal. Take the salad and sit in a shaded area of your garden, if you are lucky enough to have one— eat and enjoy.[wd_contact_form id=”3″]