A Reasonable Excess

I’ll see your 10,000 steps. And raise you 10,000 bites. Let’s hear it for disinhibition.

Case in point: yesterday. If it had been a nice day, we might have walked uphill, from Borgo Maggiore to San Marino’s third tower, gaining thousands of steps on our way to 10,000 and, in the uphill part, climbing the equivalent of 90 floors of vertical gain. But it was raining. And it was cold. As I do on a daily basis, I began to think about lunch. We would be in Italy seven more days. There were restaurants we had not yet re-visited.


Rhymes with Gregarious

We were eavesdropping last night.  We couldn’t help ourselves. And we were glad we did.

We were sitting outside at Biberius in Rimini, our second night in town. Our second night back in Italy. A guy sitting directly behind me was talking about a cook. He had two children, this cook. He was thinking about moving to London to work, this cook. And the guy on the phone was saying, What does he think life will be like in London? If he finds work, does he think he will make more money? Will he make that much more money? Does he want to live in London, where he doesn’t know anyone? This went on for a while. When he shifted to a new subject, the tone changed. He was moving toward ending the call. The word “polenta” came up, repeatedly. 


Chard and Cabbage

Dirt is not a condiment.

The good thing about Swiss Chard is the problem with it. Though increasingly available in chain markets, like Kroger, chard is more likely a farmer’s market item. That means those gorgeous bouquets you pick up are going to be sandy, dirty, in need of 2-3 rinses before you cook them.  


Leftovers: An Apologia

Every so often I met Shirley at the copy machine. She was senior staff, I was junior. One day the conversation turned to food. 

“I’m by myself,” she said. “I poach a big piece of salmon on Monday and eat it all week.” I was horrified.  And must have shown it. “I don’t enjoy cooking,” she said. “And you know, cooking for one.”

I thought of her yesterday morning when I ate a chunk of leftover salmon for breakfast. It was a semi-failed dish, two days prior, of salmon and brothy beans with chard. Semi-failed–the beans needed to be a little brothier, the chard fresh, not leftover.  But damn, two days in waiting had made a disappointing dish great.


Bird Beans (Fagioli all’uccelletto)

I can’t get enough beans, ever. This dish resembles, probably badly, a Tuscan bean dish called fagioli all’uccelleto. I’m translating that roughly, and probably badly, as “bird beans.” For this dish you need: dried beans, tomato, sage, garlic, and love.

The recipe calls for cannellini. I usually substitute Michigan navy beans, whose goodness is unsurpassed. This time, because we have been enjoying other recipes for chickpea, the uccelletto (Italian for little bird) is eating chickpeas (though an Italian bird would call them ceci).


How to Correct Your Coffee

“Did you drink my coffee?” Tizi asks.

“Yes, by accident.”

We’ve just finished a satisfying lunch. In Italy a post-prandial blast of espresso adds an exclamation mark to the experience. Lately she’s been taking her coffee “corrected.” With a dash of “mistra,” the local anise flavored grappa. Typically my wine intake at the table is higher than hers, so I finish with straight coffee. This day the server gets the two coffees mixed up. As soon as I toss it I know, Yes, this one was hers. And Yes, this is how I should be drinking mine. Correct.


Take a Tomato Break

I was talking to my friend Pat a few days ago about tomatoes. “Everyone who’s been there,” she said, “talks about the tomatoes in Italy. They’re supposed to be so good.” Yup, they’re good all right. Here in the US we do pretty well a few months of the year. Over there, year around it seems, great tomatoes.


‘Tis the Seasoning

For years now I’ve suffered from garlic salt shame. It’s the seasoning I use most often, thinking that it’s a shortcut, that an accomplished cook with stores of self-respect would employ solo salt and stand-alone garlic that he would strip, dice, and sprinkle on a side dish or main course instead of going the two-in-one route.