Thursday, July 31, 2008

July eats

Hambone and Spice are back from an incredible, restful, and fun vacation in Maine. On either side of that trip, we've grilled a ridiculous amount of delicious food—so much so that I haven't been able to keep up on the blog front. Better luck next month, heh? Here are some of the highlights from a fruitful July, including treats eaten on our trip.

Fusilli with Alaskan salmon, peas, and pesto cream (made from the basil growing in pots on our terrace).

House-cured gravlax that Will (brother-in-law visiting from Stockholm) and Helena (his wife) whipped up while in Maine. The leftover smoked salmon was tranformed stunningly into a pasta with peas and a cilantro-lime cream sauce.

Lobster roll with the perfect ratio of sweet meat to mayonnaise and a clam roll, at Lunts. Yes, that's a bottle of blueberry ale. When in Maine...

Four squares (clockwise from top left): roasted pebble-sized potatoes*; grilled lamb rib chops rubbed with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, s & p; Moroccan carrot salad with lemon, ginger, and spices (from Alice Waters' Art of Simple Food, which has been a staple chez H&S since it was published); grilled zucchini.

*all vegetables, courtesy of the St. Paul Farmers Market

And for dessert, cherry sorbet (from David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop, another staple). True confession: a pit found its way, accidentally, sadly, into this batch of sorbet. My super-duper Waring blender made quick work of the stone, resulting in a minefield of a dessert. I highly recommend making a batch of this exquisite sorbet, and taking great care when the cherries are processed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

on vacation

Tomorrow morning, Hambone and Spice—and their brood—are flying to Maine for a week. We hope to have quality family time that includes seeing siblings/in-laws and cousins, as well as eating our fair share of lobsters and blueberries. As I will be without a computer while away—horrors, I know—details about my trip will have to wait until my return.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

puttanesca penne with salmon

I’m terrible with leftovers. Generally speaking, I don’t like reheating food in a microwave. I find it always takes longer than I plan to warm food in the oven or on the stovetop so what comes to table is often cold in the middle. Granted, there are more than a few hearty one-pot wonders that make a nice lunch days after you’ve had the initial meal. Soups, stews, and thick-sauced pastas come to mind. I would never reject leftover Indian curries or Chinese take-out. These are the easy leftovers.

I hate wasting food and am loathe to throw out any that remains from a meal, which begs the questions: what, besides sandwiches, do you do with extra meat?

As I was planning the menu for the week, I took a peek into the fridge to see what raw materials I might have at my disposal. We entertained quite a bit over the previous weekend and had to creatively reorganize the fridge to accommodate extra groceries so I felt like I might have a lot of options.

The vegetable crisper was playing host to a zippered plastic bag with roughly half a pound of cooked penne. My first thought was to recreate the Bolognese sauce Anne Burrell made on her pilot Food Network show, but I haven’t actually watched the episode. Besides, when the temperature is hovering above 80 degrees, a heavy meaty pasta sauce is not what I want to eat. Grilled vegetables and pesto were briefly considered, then rejected because I couldn’t find a way to make them appealing to the junior set.

Then, I stumbled upon the container boasting nearly half a pound of grilled spice-rubbed Copper River salmon, leftover from earlier in the week. A quick internet search gave me the inspiration I needed to transform the penne and salmon leftovers into a wholly new—and delicious—dish. Inspired by a puttanesca sauce, I substituted salmon for anchovies, allowing the salmon to be warmed gently in a simmering olive-caper-garlic-laden tomato sauce.

I look forward to the occasion on which I am, again, blessed with extra salmon.

puttanesca penne with salmon
2 T. olive oil, plus a measure for finishing
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 (15 oz.) can whole tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved
1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped
3 T. capers
a generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 T. tomato paste
salt and pepper
1/2 pound cooked pasta, room temperature
1/2 pound cooked salmon, crumbled
a few fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté sliced garlic in the olive oil briefly, until just turning golden. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Turn heat down to medium and allow to simmer for five minutes, occasionally breaking up tomato pieces. Stir in the reserved tomato juice and tomato paste. Taste sauce and season with salt, if necessary. Incorporate cooked salmon into sauce, then add cooked pasta and toss to coat. Heat gently until salmon is warmed through. Plate and drizzle with good-quality olive oil. Garnish with basil ribbons.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Few would argue against the wide-held belief that M.F.K. Fisher was the greatest food writer or that she effectively established the culinary essay as a genre.

I first encountered M.F.K. Fisher in 1989, while working as a professional bookseller. The bookstore where I was employed gave me a section to maintain: cookbooks. My first thought was that the assignment was a serious mistake—I didn't cook. Why should I be expected to become an expert on cookbooks if I didn't use them?

I'm here to tell you that, in any self-respecting independent bookstore, there's more to the cooking section than cookbooks. So I didn't cook, but I did love to eat, and the culinary essay subsection whetted my appetite for any author with the sort of descriptive powers to make me feel like I was eating a fine meal. Enter M.F.K. Fisher.

Shortly after a trip to Burgundy in 1998, I lost myself in Long Ago in France, her memoir of living in Dijon, which took me right back to the France I had just visited. Still I had not read her food writing, despite owning most of it. For years, The Art of Eating, the massive multiwork volume of M.F.K. Fisher's early food writing, has been taunting from the foodie shelves of my personal library. This morning, in honor of Fisher's birthday, I pulled down AoE and dipped into Consider the Oyster (1941):
There are three kinds of oyster-eaters: those loose-minded sports who will eat anything, hot, cold, thin, thick, dead or alive, as long as it is oyster; those who will eat them raw and only raw; and those who with equal severity will eat them cooked and no way other.
There are several things to do with oysters beside eat them, although many people believe firmly in that as the most sensible course.
I'm hooked on her lavish descriptions of food, her presentation of the social, historical, cultural, and political aspects of food, as well as her personal experiences and observations.

Here is Garrison Keillor's very brief tribute from "The Writers Almanac":
It's the birthday of food writer M.F.K. Fisher, (books by this author) born Mary Frances Kennedy in Albion, Michigan (1908). She's the author of many books about food and eating, and best known for The Gastronomical Me (1943). During World War II, she published How to Cook a Wolf (1942), which suggested all kinds of ways people could eat well on food rations. She wrote, "When the wolf is at the door one should invite him in and have him for dinner.
You can read more about M.F.K. Fisher here and here, as well as at the Chicago Tribune, which offers a fitting tribute on her 100th birthday.