Friday, December 31, 2010


We have (at last approximate count, when we were unpacking from our move) more than 160 cookbooks and cooking-related works. Sometimes we use them for actual recipes, often we just like to read them, but most frequently they're inspiration. For example, I received Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook for Christmas, and I've already got some new ideas on deconstructed dishes and sauces.

A few of our cookbooks receive rotating space on a counter in the kitchen, and here are some of the most recent that we've been using for ideas.

Last night's dinner was a cauliflower, apple, onion, current, and dill casserole, with green-onion and Camembert cornbread. (Both inspired by The Herbal Kitchen cookbook, in top photo, which is based on the menu from the Herbfarm Restaurant in Woodinville, Washington.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snapper Baked in Salt Crust with Fingerling Potatoes

Like most American consumers, I’ve gravitated toward fish that have already been filleted, although in my younger fishing days I was fairly adept with cleaning and preparing whole fish. But we’ve recently been finding some nice-looking whole fish (this Snapper and some Spanish Mackerel most recently). One benefit to cooking fish whole is that the bones, head, etc. contribute additional layers of flavor to the finished dish.

We stuffed this Snapper with lemon, parsley, onion, and thyme. The salt crust held the moisture and flavors in, without giving the fish a salty taste at all. Served with lemon wedges and a drizzle of olive oil.

As accompaniment, we sautéed fingerling potatoes and onion (in a little olive oil, covered) with a little sage and finished with a light sprinkle of Truffle salt. Served the potatoes with a Wasabi mayonnaise, and had a Spanish Verdejo wine.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Just a Plain Lettuce Salad, Sil Vous Plait

[A chapter from The Cooking School of Life]

Bob just wanted a salad. A nice, crisp pile of lettuce with some tomatoes, maybe a slice of cucumber and a black olive or two.

“I’m sorry, we have the braised endive. Or maybe Monsieur would enjoy some Tomates a la Provencale?”

“No. Really. I’d just like a lettuce salad.”

“I’m sorry, again. We have no lettuce.”

Bob just stared at the waiter. We were in a French restaurant (back when they were “French” restaurants, not “continental” or “Euro-fusion”) in conservative Orange County, California. Bob was from New Jersey, out on business. He gave a sigh and slumped a bit, looking grumpy. Bob was the kind of guy who had his Range Rover in Jersey but also a 10-year-old-Oldsmobile as his New York City car. He commanded a bit of a presence, but also wasn’t the scene-making type.

“Let me ask if the kitchen can do anything for you sir.”

The kitchen did manage to find some hearts of Romaine (“No leaves?”), but insisted on French-ifying it so as not to appear too common.

I had never had French food. Never been to a French restaurant. Never had dinner with New York businessmen twice my age. I was over my head and I knew it so I tried my best to keep my head down and be as business-like as possible in my suit that I now know was much too loud and California-flamboyant for these guys in dark gray and brown.

The evening was awkward. I remember dropping the tiny salt shaker in the potatoes on my plate, but I think the conversation at the table was animated enough that no one else actually noticed as I wiped it off with the napkin on my lap. Especially as this was the type of French restaurant where everything was so perfectly spiced, seasoned, and salted that there were no salt or pepper shakers on the tables for the crude Americans who over-salted everything without even tasting it. (They must have known my Dad.) Thus, Bob had had to request salt and pepper for the table.

What I remember were the songs on the menu – Canard en Croute, Jambon Farci et Braise, Poulet Roti. Other than the Spanish of my youth and the street Japanese I picked up living in Asia, French menu items were the first words of another language that I learned. And I remember the sauces – Hollandaise, Mornay, Beranaise. And I have no clue as to what I ate that night or on other evenings at the restaurant. Other than they were rich and lovely.

Not just a plain lettuce salad.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tuna & Veggies

Sorta veggie tempura (actually beer-batter made with garbanzo flour and rice flour) with seared tuna steak with a teriyaki reduction sauce.