Archive for October, 2007

To the Lighthouse

Last Sun the weather was good and after looking at several possible destinations we decided on Long Beach Island, Nice ride – about 50 miles (one way) of low traffic country roads through famous NJ Pine Barrens – a free aromatherapy session for those lucky ones on motorcycles. Once you get to the bridge there is a sudden change of scenery – a long and slow ride (almost like a stroll) through an off-season resort town: a solitary jogger, an old lady with a dog, closed restaurants, empty stylish beach houses occasionally decorated with For Rent or For Sale signs… Until you reach the Barnegat Lighthouse – the place is jumping: there are boats all over the water and the pier is quite crowded.


I make a futile attempt to capture a fragile beauty of a beach flora.


A short but delightful trail swinging through Barnegat Lighthouse State Park – alas just one of the last remnants of maritime forest in the area.


… On the way back make sure to stop by Wawa at the intersection of  routes 70 and 539/530 to hang up with other riders, compliment their bikes and let them admire yours…


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Zuni’s Hashed Sweet Potatoes

It was one of the first recipes i tried from the Zuni cookbook and it was a total disaster. That might explain why i never became enthusiastic about this book as almost everybody else. But then couple of days ago i got some nice jersey white sweet potatoes, and started to search for ideas. Hash browns – liked the idea but not the recipe so googled and pretty soon i was looking at Hashed Sweet Potatoes, after all these years!.. Well i was rewarded for giving the recipe a second try.


Great smell during the cooking though not of this familiar roasted potato kind. I used one 5oz potato and it was more than enough for making an airy cake in 9"omelette pan. With a sturdy hand i even succeeded to turn it over in one piece (spatula was involved). I increased the cooking time to 6-7 mins per side to get to the proper caramelization.

What an elegant treat! you basically end up with two crispy layers of shredded potatoes – almost like straw ones though even more delicate. I wish i made a photo – imagine a red gold lace artfully suspended from a fancy silver fork – edible craft! Well i’m sure there will be another chance pretty soon – stay tuned 🙂

And the taste was so superior to your ordinary suds, and not sweet at all.

And it needed nothing more than a small green salad. And a belgian style beer for a perfect matching. Ommegang’s Ommegang was my choice this time.

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The Celebration of White Shrimp

As discovered yesterday at Wegmans – wild caught in Atlantic, from boat to store – seems like this is the season. And that’s the best shrimp since i left Far East of Russia so many years ago, where we used to catch it ourselves eating one or more raw before cooking the rest in sea water on a beach over a camp fire: heads on of course…

Well, russian recipes for shrimp were quite simple: boil in salt water with bay leaves and peppercorns. Serve piping hot with Zhigulev beer. But not trusting the flavor of shrimp since then i’ve been making more involved dishes…

Yesterday, marinated white shrimps in coriander/black peppercorns mix (1tbs of each ground separately and then mixed with a 1tbs of olive oil for about 1.5lb of shelled tails on shrimp) and then seared quickly. The recipe is from the Floyd Cardoz’s cookbook.

Tonight,  my family favorite  – a spicy seafood stew from Pleasures of Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham – i made it numerous times before. The plated dish looks nice and bright but i had no time to make any pictures – everybody were that hungry!


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Peposo, a Tuscan Dinner

Inspired by the Lidia Bastianich’s latest book and Bill Buford i made this simple peposo
More or less followed the Buford’s recipe and used a claypot (as suggested by another italian cooking maven – Nancy Harmon Jenkins – her recipe for peposo can be found here).
The braising took 11 hours but could easily go to 12. The temp was a bit tricky. It probably makes sense to start on 275F, letting the pot to come to the boil slowly on the stove before putting it into the oven. and then gradually lower the oven to about 250F. Though obviously it defeats the whole idea of "…put it into the oven at low-to-medium temperature (about 225°F), and don’t take it out until the next morning…" A possible solution to do as Buford does, and then in the morning to make appropriate adjustments.
I found that a bottle of wine for 3lb of meat (Lidia uses 4 cups for 2lb) is too much. I actually removed the lid for the last three hours or so. Next time will start with 2cups.
And the garlic – either leave it whole or mince very carefully – i was sloppy expecting the garlic bits to melt into braising liquid but they didn’t and looked quite unattractive. And if you’re using beef shanks try to get rid of all connective tissue – or at least fish it out before serving…
Interesting that the recipe brought famous Wolfert’s pork coddled in olive oil to mind, another tuscan dish btw. Same short list of ingredients – just pork instead of beef, and olive oil for red wine!
So it seems appropriate to serve peposo with beans – as Paula serves her pork and Lidia suggests for the beef as well.
I used Rancho Gordo’s Rio Zape to keep the color scheme. And adapted Wolfert’s recipe for tuscan beans – couple of bay leaves, two garlic cloves, and quartered jalapeno (the latter is nothing to do with Paula). It took me about 3 hours as i kept the liquid barely simmering but the result was outstanding – the creamiest beans ever all of them staying intact.
To round the dinner there were some greens on the table and a nice cheese – Creama Kasa, rich and creamy but still tangy.
It’s really interesting to make peposo with tomatoes (see the Jenkins’s recipe above). I think they will bring a pleasant silkiness to the dish (remember that the meat used for peposo should be lean and there is no olive oil used)

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Gorgeous early fall weather this weekend – and we hit curvy roads of Bucks county to Doylestown again. The ride is familiar (though never boring) but the destination is new – Nakashima’s reading room at Michener art museum.


It’s a little gem of museum with a meticulously picked collection of works by local artists:


And what a lovely sculpture garden! Nevermind the location – the former site of the Bucks County jail (note the wall):


And then we had a real pleasure to visit just opened exhibition of Philip Pearlstein, The Dispassionate Body . Well pleasure might be a wrong word to describe the emotions brought out by these large paintings of nudes in bizarre indoor set-ups with a toy or some other object or two. Disturbing but riveting!..

Yet the strange compositions felt somehow familiar… when half way through the exhibition it struck me – indeed i read a long and fascinating essay about Pearlstein a long while ago, most probably in New Yorker – but since completely forgot the name. Now i just wish i could reread the essay again (and no, unfortunately neither googling nor direct searching the New Yorker website helped).

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