Category Archives: Eating

Pass the Oil, Please

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The truth of the matter is, much of what I’m eating today is an excuse to consume olive oil.  Salads with spiral-cut zucchini and arugula and tuna–it’s a dish that wants a generous anointing with extra virgin olive oil.  Fava beans with chopped tomato–oh, yes, let there be oil. On a steak or a slab of fish, oil provides a definite enhancement. Last night, snacking lightly, I ate a chunk of bread leftover from lunch, giving it a drizzle of olive oil to soak into those dried dimples and crevices, topped with a few slices of mozzarella and leftover scraps of zucchini spirals. Continue reading

I Spiralize…

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Meanwhile my life has been permanently changed by the discovery of the spiralizer, a kitchen device that transforms a zucchini into spaghetti.

What joy. What delightful culinary alchemy. In my wife’s family there is a mildly chiding remark employed when someone states the obvious. Hai scoperto america. You discovered America. So, all right, the spiralizer (I will never tire of using that term) is old news. But to me, it’s new news.

It’s lightweight. Its dies are razor sharp. My first time spiralizing I drew blood, my own, twice. The shiny white easy-to-clean appliance wasn’t exactly covered with gore. But if it was, so what. A quick rinse under the tap, and blood’s away. Easy to use, easy to dismantle and clean, easy to mantle.

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I’ve spiralized twice now. Second time, caution was observed and I came away unscathed. Now, to the eating. Spiralizing will reveal new worlds. What to spiralize? What to do with spiralized stuff? This spiralized zucchini, I’m eating it raw, with arugula and chopped tomato. Olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt. I used to think, How did we live before arugula? Now I wonder, How did I live without a spiralizer?

A year from now, will it still be special? Or will it fall onto the junk heap of other kitchen devices like the cap snaffler, egg cuber, roll ‘n pour, alli-grater, pancake pen, electric hotdog slicer, Oreo dipr, the one click stick butter cutter, the battery-operated spaghetti twirling fork, the condiment gun?

I predict the spiralizer will last. It will stand the test of time. I spiralize. Therefore I am.

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Hey, You Guys!

The Michigan–how do you take your plural–asparagus or asparaguses or asparaguys are on the shelves, and they are fantastic. These lovelies we had for lunch today have distinctive blue tips. The stalks are shaved, giving them a more delicate green. Suitable for framing. Unless you’re hungry.

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Always make too much, always make too many.  Doing so, if you have a couple ounces of restraint, will mean you have a couple leftover asparagus to enjoy with a rice dish the next day.  Ahhh, leftovers. How did they become the poor cousins on/at the menu? Pictured here, brown rice, chopped tomato, and sliced asparagus. Served cool, with sea salt and fresh ground paper. No oil.

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Veal Feathers

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On the package it says “Plume de veau.” I read that as “veal feathers.” Thinking: Now what have they done to those poor animals?

It’s hard not to feel guilty. The don’t-eat-the-veal campaign in the 1980’s just about ruined osso buco for me. The Wall Street Journal reports that per capita consumption of veal in the US fell from 2.3 pounds in 1986 to just 0.3 pounds in 2014. But now, early in the 21st century, veal has been rehabilitated. Continue reading

Cauliflower: Boil Now, Eat Later

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If I had to do college all over again, I would probably still major in English. But this time around, I would definitely minor in cauliflower.

Consider the lowly cauliflower, resting on the kitchen counter. I hold it aloft and admire it, like Hamlet lifting Yorick’s skull and addressing it: “a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.” Cauliflower, a vegetable of infinite possibility, of most excellent taste. Continue reading

Yes, Rabbit

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In the kitchen I originate very little. I’m an homage cook.  I replicate and modify. One dish I’m proud of is a modified arrabiata pasta. Very modified.  Extremely modified. Actually, it has little to do with arrabiata. The story:

One year my wife and I had a long lunch in Montepulciano, the one in Tuscany known for noble wine–literally Il Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. After touring the wine caves we asked 3-4 people where we could get a good lunch and found ourselves served a “bis”–two orders of pasta divided between two people. (You can also do a “tris,” a tris for two, a tris for three or four.) One pasta was light, satisfactory, and forgettable; the other was penne with sausage, tomato, and red pepper.  A bomb. And I mean a bomb in the best possible way. Continue reading

The Red Gold

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We’re talking tomato. Banish the can (or jar). Well, not entirely.  But almost. You can and might and should make the red gold yourself.

We buy a pizza dough from time to time. Flatten it. Stretch it. Roll it. You know where this is going. In my wife’s region of Italy (San Marino, Romagna, Marche) you get something pizza-like or foccaccia-like.  Called variously spianata, fornarina, ciclista, schiacciatina. Okay, it’s a white pizza. Some of them thin thin thin, with a little olive oil and sea salt and rosemary to make them fragrant and even more appealing. Top one of those with a little chopped tomato and arugula, you’ll have something extra good. Stra-good, they might say over there. The tomato matters. So much. Continue reading

Lovely Lowly Leftovers

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Some dishes are better a day later.  A vegetable stew, for example. Or a pork roast.

My father-in-law used to say, “Non buttiamo via niente.” We don’t throw anything away.  I think of him when I make a soup or a rice dish, or when I have sat down to a bowl of ribollita in Florence, a soup that is not really a re-boiled dish, but its origins must have been that–leftover bread, leftover beans, leftover chard and kale. Put them together and what to do get? Something delicious.  And the pleasure of economy.  Waste not, want not.  Non buttiamo via niente. Continue reading

Zucchini Redux

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I love them for their color, for the way they grace the table. Boiled and sliced, seasoned with a little olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper, available year around, zucchini are simply the best.

Leftover, they are fit for a frittata or omelet. Lately I have been re-purposing them in a rice dish, another almost risotto. Continue reading

Give Us This Day Our Daily Breadcrumbs

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A friend asked once: “Are you one of those people who makes his own breadcrumbs?”

No, I’m not.

I had just pulled a sheet of roasted tomatoes out of the oven. Topped with seasoned breadcrumbs, they perfumed the house, then ravished the palate. Continue reading

A Celebration Lunch

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Serravalle, Republic of San Marino

For celebration lunch today we have Greektown of Detroit, Barbuto of New York, and Howdy Richards of Freeland to thank.

What are we celebrating? Being alive. Being together.   Continue reading

Chics and Tuna

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One of my fondest memories is having lunch at the Buca del Orafo in Florence. My wife took me there the first time–in 1978.  We had a Fiorentina, the giant Italian t-bone steak, which was awesome.

In subsequent visits, we’ve skipped the steak and enjoyed the shaved artichoke and pecorino antipasto, pasta with fresh peas, or ribolitta, finishing, if they were in season, with the fragoline, the mountain strawberries served with lemon juice and sugar, tiny flavor bombs that would put you over the top.

Every year we were greeted by the same waiter, Piero, who was quiet and genial and attentive. Maybe it was the third or fourth time we ate there, we had Tuscan beans and tuna for antipasto. He set the plate down and said, “Now you really should have some of excellent extra virgin olive oil,” and poured out that luscious green gold.

Shown above: an approximation of that heaven.  The dish is good any time of year. Fresh beans, canned beans (drained and rinsed). I used chickpeas today. Shown below: cannellini beans with diced campari tomato.

It’s a question of preference, tradition, and knowing what you like.  For a dish like this I want tomato to be peeled, seeded, and diced. It’s March. The campari tomatoes are in the grocery story and Costco. They are bursting with flavor. Peeling and extracting seeds takes a while. A job made less onerous if accompanied by a glass of wine.

At the Buca, I’m pretty sure there will no tomato.  And given the quality of the ingredients, the ambiance of the restaurant, and what’s just outside the door (the Arno and Ponte Vecchio) it won’t matter.

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In Search Of

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Yakgurt.

There is such a thing, tasting more of gurt than of yak. We came to Yunnan province and the city of Lijiang hoping to see, among other things, yak in the flesh, the great furry, horned beast. We did not close to, but it felt like we did.

This was a trip that began with something of a fool’s errand, which led us to serendipitous yak. Having checked into our hotel, our kids did what they usually do; did, it could be said, what they learned from us to do: look for a good place to eat. Continue reading

Taste Your Feet

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I’ve got wellness on my mind.

“Canducci Tiziana.”  That’s how they call my wife when it’s her turn. Last name first. We’re at the Repubblica di San Marino Instituto di Sicurezza Sociale (aka the hospital), where she’s here to see an orthopedic doc.  A few weeks ago at the Bargello museum in Florence, while I was in the gallery at the top of the stairs, the one with Donatello’s David and Giambologna‘s Mercury, two fleet-footed guys, looking with new-found interest at theirs and other sculpted feet, while she was climbing the stairs to join me, something happened and she tumbled down six or eight steps, injuring a few of her appendages.  To wit: a knee and a wrist. Continue reading