To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.
~François de La Rochefoucauld

Yes, I have written about tuna more extensively in a post entitled Ahi “Nicoise” dated May 13, 2010 — look at the search box.  But, please abstain in devouring blue fin tuna as it appears low in numbers.

Then again, earlier (February 7, 2009) there existed here a post about ubiquitous steak tartare — although sublime, but with the firm texture of this finfish, tuna tartare is sapid, damn near nympholeptic.  This does not imply that steak tartare is equally divine, as both are toe curlers.  But, it is a cooling, light, dainty often app repast with tuna diced into chunks and fluidly soothed by Asian flavors (as below) in a chilled vessel, a dish which really did not emerge until recently about 3-4 or so decades ago…perhaps in Paris by a Japanese born, yet French trained, chef by the name of Tachibe — who knows?

A chilled dry white (preferably one that is French oriented or sauvignon blanc) or rosé is essential as quaff.

1/4 C canola oil
2 t grated fresh ginger, with some small chunks retained

1 – 1 1/3 lb sashimi (perhaps sushi) grade tuna, diced into 1/4″ pieces

1 t jalapeño, minced with seeds and veins removed
1 1/2 t wasabi powder
1/2 t mirin
1/2 t saké
1 t sesame seeds
1 T scallion, finely chopped
1 1/2 T lime juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Non-pareil capers, rinsed
Caviar

In a bowl, add the ginger and chunks for a few hours to allow to marinate some in the frig.

In a large glass chilled bowl, add tuna to ginger oil as well as small ginger chunks, the cilantro, jalapeño, wasabi, mirin, saké, sesame seeds, scallions, lime juice, then mix well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Using fingers, very slightly strew over the tuna tartare with capers and then caviar.

Serve on chilled shallow glass salad bowl(s) over some flared avocado slices or cilantro or watercress, something like that or those kith and kin.

Ubiquitous Caper Salsa

May 28, 2016

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life:  it goes on.
~Robert Frost

This salsa can be drooled over whatever, whether edible flora or fauna.  Imagination and creativity are all that need come to the table (comme d’habitude).

CAPER SALSA

1 C capers, non-pareil, rinsed and patted dry

2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 1/2 lemons, grated
1/4 C lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and minced
2/3 C parsley or cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

1 C chèvre or other goat cheese, crumbled

In a bowl mix together capers with the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic and parsley. Then, whisk in the goat cheese. Ladle onto…

I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.
~Frank Lloyd Wright

Just horrific, blatant madness. Enough has been enough — a churlish and cowardly National Rifle Association, a despicable and misleading Wayne La Pierre, a dysfunctional, pugnacious and pandering Congress and a meddling and fawning usual majority of the Supreme Court who all huddling together create this arrant bedlam. Irrational.  Each of you know without any doubt that our country is awash with guns, an absolute disgrace, a contagion of non-hunting firearms. Feckless thoughts and prayers forever from Congress? Do you not even comprehend that that those words are flat empty?  C’mon man.

Some 90 people die from gun violence each and every day in this self annointed pre-eminent (not really) of nations. This number does not even include that over 270 souls are maimed by gunshot wounds each day nor does it parse out the vast numbers of children that are crippled (20) or killed (9) by gun violence daily. A cowardly slaughter occurs followed by typically incoherent, often pathological, statements from asinine donors, imbecilic gun lobbyists, gullible politicians, naïve citizens and others. Do the right thing, at least sometimes.  This is not nuance, which would be more aptly defined as a “subtlety” or “tinge.”

Gun bloodshed has been rampant for years. The utter reality is that there are now over 300,000,000 guns in shaky and often mentally unstable civilian hands either kept openly or surreptitiously by a third of households across this country. This number does not even include the vast arsenals of ammunition, shells and massive clips which have now become prodigious. A recent study showed that many guns were sold without a single background check. Moreover, there is absolutely no support for the claim that owning more guns deters, drops or reduces violent crime. No studies have supported that fallacious and invalid reasoning. Instead the opposite has been proven — rampant gun ownership correlates with and causes more homicides and harm to others and selves. Actually, Congress has even capitulated to lobbyists by refusing to allow the CDC or others to amass evidence of gun injuries and deaths. We keep tabs on car wrecks, cancers, foods, drinks, the flu and not guns? Really?

Just so you know, some 42,500,000 American adults (or 18+% of the adult population) suffer from some documented mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — for which little or no treatment is received in this country. This does not even take into account people whose metal illness is not documented or should simply not be brandishing firearms. Criminals, of course, go underground through straw purchases or unlicensed buys, for inherently dangerous demons of death.

In other developed nations in the western world, gun homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings pale in comparison.  For instance, in Japan, persons die from guns at rates far less than an American chances at death by a lightning strike.  In Scotland, the chances of dying from a storm are greater than that of the very rare gunshot wound.  And so on, for more advanced western democracies…

Remember the easily debunked myth that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?” I call nonsense (expletive deleted) on that one. Is it much more cogent to assert that “mentally ill, insane or unstable people freely and easily armed with guns and abundant ammunition kill or mutilate their victims.”  One sad state of affairs.

This makes no mention of mass shootings which now occur more than once a day according to a recent compilation of news reports. Mass shootings are sadly defined as ones where at least four or more people are left dead or injured.  Just consider the recent horrific past — at a movie theater in Aurora, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a manufacturer in Minneapolis, a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, a Fort Hood army center, near the campus of UC Santa Barbara, at a movie theater in Louisiana, a military center in Chattanooga, at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, on the campus of Northern Arizona, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and now the carnage at a social services center in San Bernardino, California.

How long will it take for you to get off your bald headed, pale faced, nasty-tongued, flat keisters, Congress members,  while the victims’ blood palpably streams down your hands, arms, and sleeves?  Yet, you lick boots, cater to a lobbying body as daft and inane as the NRA?   It might be suggested that you get off your bums. Right now, or you will face the wrath of mothers, fathers, lovers and family members again and again.  In case you did not take note, this insanity is far beyond an epidemic stage — there is no counterpart anywhere for a supposed developed nation.

And please do not give me that Second Amendment absurdity. The Bill of Rights reads as follows: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Whatever happened to the first two provisos, and the days of single loading, tamped down powder one-shot muskets and before assault rifles and extended, high (almost immense) capacity magazines?  In Heller, a firearm unconnected with service in a militia was used for lawful purposes, such as self-defense within a home. An extremely narrow reading of Second Amendments rights at best, and of course authored by Justice Antonin Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

To quote Chief Justice Warren Burger, who was appointed as a conservative justice by President Richard Nixon, the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime,” and later proclaimed that “the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to have firearms at all.” In the last quarter or less century though, special interests (often paunchy members cloaked in SCOTUS black robes, with callous and scathing remarks, by slim majority votes) have sadly prevailed.

Speaking of, the same Richard Nixon, and later Ronald Reagan, proposed gutting the market of Saturday night specials, considered banning handguns altogether and simply refused to cater to gun owners who feign some inarticulate interest in assault and hand weapons. The NRA, of course, was opposed to these actions given its historically recent opposition to any gun control or restrictions.

Several previously Oval Office recordings and memos show a conservative who was often willing to feud with the NRA, even though “trusted” presidential aides fretted about political consequences.

“I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house,” Nixon commented. He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?” He added, “I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it.” But, he implored “people should not have handguns.” Finally, Nixon flatly declared that “guns are an abomination.”

The lack of gun control has become a national shame. Despicable, deceptive stuff. Wall Street, Congressional hacks, the Supremes, et al. are allowed to strip those of their constitutional right to a jury trial (by arbitration) yet imagine if they these same dark folks in cloaks took away the same by barring gun ownership.

The failure of our elected few (hostages taken by the NRA), corrupt lobbyists (the NRA), and the Supreme Court to simply refuse to protect innocent victims from guns, ammunition and explosives is morally and ethically reprehensible.

Thankfully, grub overcomes guns.

FARFALLE WITH CHICKEN, SHALLOTS AND BLUE CHEESE

1/2 lb shallots, peeled and sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black and pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil

1-2 lbs dark hued chicken (thighs)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T dried thyme
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
Chicken stock
2-3 T cognac or brandy

1 lb dried farfalle
Sea salt and water

3/4 lbs blue cheese, such as bleu d’auvergne, in small chunks
A few dollops of crème fraîche and/or heavy whipping cream

Parsley leaves, chopped
Capers, drained
Parmigiano-reggiano, grated

Toss shallots in a deep, heavy skillet with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Then, add seasoned (salt, pepper, thyme) chicken thighs and brown. Add stock and finally some cognac or brandy. Toward the end, add crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream or both.

Remove and cut chicken into 2 1/2″ pieces.

While cooking farfalle according to instructions in a separate pot, add bleu d’auvergne and pasta al dente to skillet and cook until finished, adding chicken pieces.

Strew with parsley, capers and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Yes, this is cherubic Carter pasta (sorry about the gun polemic, but it is vital).

We all like chicken.
~Malcolm X

Shortly after my fetching daughter’s glorious wedding in a mountain field, I felt compelled to write about rabbit cacciatore (July 24, 2013).

Today’s cacciatore recipe goes to show (as with coq au vin) just how many myriad versions exist of this rustic braise, so many of which are luscious. Really, what are “authentic” kitchens and “classic” recipes anyways — especially when your lands or regions have been invaded, conquered, occupied or colonized by other culture(s) over time?

For instance, tomatoes (pommodori) are often traced from origins in Peru, where they were domesticated by the Mayans and later cultivated by the Incas. These divine fruits likely entered Europe by way of Spain, after conquistador Hernán Cortés‘ early 16th century conquest of the flourishing Aztec city-state of Tenochtitlán, on a swampy island on the coast of Lake Texcoco in the valley of Mexico. When these globular red (often yellow) berries arrived on Italian shores, they were strictly a curiosity for those who merely studied or ruminated about plants, but not anything anyone would ever consider eating. Tomatls (an Aztec term) were considered “strange and horrible things” — aberrant mutants, even feared as poisonous. It was not until later that tomatoes finally were embraced in Italy as pomi d’oro, or “golden apples.” Imported tomatoes assimilated easily to the Mediterranean rim climate and finally became a vital part of Italian cuisine in the 17th & 18th centuries and beyond — over two millennia after they were first domesticated in South and Mesoamerica. The sometimes tortured path of food.

The notion of pollo alla cacciatore seems a rather amusing take on hunters who utterly fail to nab anything while pocketing hearty fare from home. Gentle souls, they must be.

And yes, Malcolm, chicken is unforgettably irresistible.

CHICKEN CACCIATORE (POLLO ALLA CACCIATORE)

4-5 leg thigh quarters
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
2 C all purpose flour

1 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil

3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 t rosemary leaves, chopped
1 t oregano leaves, chopped
1 T fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
Sea salt

1/2 C dry red wine
1 C chicken broth
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 14 1/2 oz canned tomatoes in juice, diced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 C crimini and/or shittake mushrooms, trimmed and thickly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Rosemary sprigs, for serving
1/2 C basil, ribboned, for serving
2-3 T capers, drained, for serving

Penne, rice, risotto or other pastas, cooked according to instructions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high in a large, heavy skillet until shimmering. Meanwhile, season the chicken with rosemary, salt and pepper and then dredge in flour, shaking off excess, so the leg-thighs are just slightly coated. Brown, in batches if necessary, for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken pieces to a bowl as they are done and loosely tent. Discard the olive oil and chicken fat from the pan.

Next, turn to a Dutch oven, place on medium heat, add the 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and the onion, heirloom tomatoes, and carrot, as well as a pinch of sea salt. Cook and stir, until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, oregano, parsley and sea salt to taste. Cover, turn the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is barely soft and the garlic not brown.

Turn the heat back up to medium, stir in the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook while stirring, until the mushrooms are just tender.

Stir in the wine, vinegar and stock and bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes, until the wine-vinegar-stock mix has reduced by about a third. Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan, so they are well submerged in the tomato mixture. Cover and braise over medium heat for about 30 minutes, until the juices run pale yellow from the chicken.

Place pasta, rice or a simple risotto in large shallow bowls and place over a chicken quarter and ladle with sauce. Strew the rosemary sprigs, chiffonaded basil, and capers over the top and serve with a Sangiovese.

Carnal embrace is the practice of throwing one’s arms around a side of beef.
~Tom Stoppard

One time, a velveteen skinned, stranded sea lion came to me on a beach much like a tired, whining and throaty barking hurt dog. We were both, well all, naked (as if that matters), and we did not know what to do as cell phones were inoperable due to canyons and obtusely did not know what the recovery timing was then.

He/she was not totally emaciated and did not appear close to death, so the dance was confusing and misguided for both of us. Whether to pet, touch, caress or simply feel or hug — never a good time to be bitten by a potentially sickened sea mammal. But, there appeared a cry for help. I had read about the starving sea lion population, particularly those who needed nursing that had “washed up” on the Channel Islands and California coasts. It seemed apparent that this sea lion was a victim of the consequences of climate change and rising ocean temperatures — confused, somewhat gaunt and forlorn. I could not even tell how old she/he was due to my ignorance. Later in the day after staying nearby she/he walked away, and the sea lion was hopefully rescued, rehabilitated and ultimately released.

Then again, who really knows?

CARPACCIO

8 or so ozs lean beef, such as tenderloin or top round, trimmed of fat, sinewy membrane, or silverskin (connective tissue)
1 T capers, rinsed
Arugula leaves and/or micro-greens, washed and spun dry
Extra virgin olive oil

Parmigiano reggiano, shaven into curls
Lemon wedges

Chill the beef (and platter) in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Cut beef against the grain into thin slices with a very sharp knife, trimming away any fat or gristle. Put each slice between layers of heavy duty plastic wrap or waxed paper and gently pound beef flat with a meat mallet to a thickness to about 1/16″ (about paper thin). Refrigerate flattened slices in plastic, until chilled, almost frozen.

Peel plastic from each slice and invert onto a chilled platter and top each slice with capers and arugula and/or micro-greens. Drizzle each portion with olive oil, then season lightly with salt and pepper.

Garnish atop carpaccio with shaven parmigiano reggiano and lemon wedges, squeezed, and serve promptly.

Buon appetito!

Pourboire: other times, carpaccio is slightly covered in pickled shallot, fine anchovies, garlic, chopped red onion, sliced grilled fennel, chives, even cherry heirloom tomatoes. Your call, but I prefer simplicity.

In writing, you must kill all your darlings.
~William Faulkner

Over the past few years, this site has become some form of writing, albeit ramblings or recipes. That medium allows me to fictionally, even idiomatically, lead those beloved, downy lambs to slaughter.

To do so, first ascertain a venue and gather the tools of the trade. Create a block and tackle from an overhead beam or improvise some sort of frame from scaffold poles. Then, garner a gambrel (an a-frame for hanging carcasses), meat hooks, a sharp 6″ blade, a small hook-shaped knife, a butcher’s saw, and a shotgun. Later comes separation, the act, hoisting the carcass, skinning, evisceration and butchery. The bloody details, angles, etc., are purposely spared, so precise imagination must suffice.

In the end, at the juncture of animal and human worlds, emerge blessed lamb chops. Numinous provender for us omnivores.

GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH YOGURT & SAFFRON

Lamb marinade:

1 t saffron threads
2 T warm water

2 C plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1/2 C fresh lemon juice
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
8 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 T fresh black peppercorns
2 t orange zest
2 t honey

8 rib lamb chops, doubled (each 2″ thick)

Saffron baste:

1/2 t saffron threads
1 1/2 T warm chicken stock

3 T unsalted butter
3 T fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chutneys (optional)

Prepare the marinade. Place the saffron in a large, deep glass bowl and grind to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Add warm water, stir, and let stand for 10 minutes.

Then, add the yogurt, lemon juice, onion, garlic, peppercorns, orange zest and honey to the dissolved saffron and mix well. Pour over and marinate the lamb chops in a large heavy plastic bag and allow to rest, turning occasionally, in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the grill to medium high. As a reminder, hold an open hand about three inches above the hot grate with the coals already spread and count how long you can keep it there before the pain demands retraction. Two (2) to three (3) seconds = medium high.

Meanwhile, prepare the saffron basting sauce. Place the saffron in a small, heavy saucepan. Add warm stock, stir, and let stand for 10 minutes. Add the butter and lemon juice to the dissolved saffron and stir over low heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is blended and heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove the chops from the marinade, bring to room temperature on a cutting board, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the lamb chops on the hot barbeque grate and then grill, turning once, until cooked to your liking (about 5-6 minutes per side for medium rare). Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the lamb chops and the heat of the grill. Brush the chops a couple of times as they cook with the saffron basting sauce.

Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes on the cutting board, then transfer the chops to plates and serve promptly, preferably with dollops of differing chutneys to the side.

Words are all we have.
~Samuel Beckett

Did I say that right?

Just a slight variance in intonation can lead to a near scandalous difference in linguistic meaning, often making proper enunciation vital. For instance, fico is an Italian noun, which translates in English to that sweet and succulent fig. Diction demands this word be pronounced in a distinctly masculine way so that it finishes with a marked and unequivocal o. Be wary, since if lazily uttered like figa or fica then you have slangily yet openly referred to vagina or vulva…a bilingual blunder.

Similarly, the next time you peruse a menu at that trendy trattoria in Rome, New York or home, and that primo piatta of penne yanks your chain, take care how you address the waiter or hosts. Penne is the plural form of the Italian penna, derived from the Latin penna (meaning “feather” or “quill”). Tubular, diagonally cut penne are produced in two main variants: penne lisce (smooth) and penne rigate (furrowed), the latter having ridges.

In the Italian tongue, a doubled consonant (here “nn”) significantly affects pronunciation. In phonetics, this is referred to as gemination — when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. The effect is to shorten the preceding vowel and lengthen the consonant itself. With lengthened stops, the obstruction of the airway is prolonged, somewhat delaying release. Thus, the word penne should be pronounced as pen’-neh or ˈpe(n)-(ˌ)nā. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, long consonants are normally written using the triangular colonːas in penne [penːe]. This seemingly subtle difference in pronunciation may be difficult for English speakers to appreciate and reproduce, however to Italians the difference is quite patent and even affects meaning.

Also, do remember that the letter “p” in English is often aspirated, resulting in an extra puff of air along with the pronunciation of the consonant. This never occurs in Italian.

Although the unsophisticated often fail to discern the difference between correctly pronouncing the double “nn,” Italian ears definitely do. If pronounced as pene without shortening the first vowel and lengthening the consonant “n,” you are referring to the word penis. So, be a touch couth and avoid ordering penis at the table.

PENNE RIGATE WITH SAUSAGE, TOMATO & CREAM

1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lb Italian pork & fennel sausage, uncased and crumbled

3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 medium carrot, peeled and finely shredded

One 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, chopped (retain juice)
1 T tomato paste
1 small rind of parmigiano-reggiano
1/4 C dry red wine
1 t red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bay leaf
Bouquet garni of fresh parsley, thyme and oregano sprigs

3/4 C heavy whipping cream

1 lb penne rigate pasta
Fresh basil leaves, whole or chiffonaded
Parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated

Capers, rinsed and drained (optional)

Using kitchen scissors, chop tomatoes while still in can.

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add sausage and cook, stirring to break up large chunks, until meat is browned and just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer meat to a bowl lined with paper towels using a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring some, until softened and translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and carrot, sauté and stir occasionally another 1 minute or so.

Stir in the tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, rind, red wine, bay leaf and bouquet garni. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. The sauce will thicken to a porridge consistency. Remove and discard the rind, bay leaf and herb bundle. Adjust seasoning to your liking.

Add enough cream and bring the tomato sauce to a simmer, stirring, then add drained sausages for a few minutes to heat. The sauce should be pinkish in hue.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large, heavy pot of generously salted boiling water according to directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain pasta in a colander. Add to the tomato sauce in the Dutch oven and toss to coat, adding pasta water if necessary to moisten.

Serve with grated parmigiano-reggiano, basil leaves and optional capers.

The death of a parent is rarely well served by prose, essay or exalted speech. And obits never do justice. Like life, death is more the stuff of poetry with melodious cadence, dissonance, subtlety and ambiguity. That big visual born of few, yet potent, words that link pasts and presents.

My father was admittedly no wordsmith. He was more a man of carefully metered words and most times an avid listener. He carried a certain grace and charm, a souplesse so when he moved, when he spoke, and even in his eyes there was quiet meaning that seemed as smooth as wet sea stones. While Dad had the power of a raging bull under his skin, outwardly he was poised and glib. Sometimes he was somber, but more often he sported an impish grin, raised brow, dancing look, and always greeting with that crushing handshake. There were diversions along the way of course, some sweet and some not. Nothing is perfect, and none of us are infallible. But, that was the very humor and sadness of the humanity he embraced.

Dad had an abiding love for the endless sea and the eternal pulse of waves. The ocean was his vast cathedral. There he was taught, and there he often returned to discover. So, I felt compelled to give way to a real poet, Pablo Neruda:

Here I came to the very edge
where nothing at all needs saying,
everything is absorbed through weather and the sea,
and the moon swam back,
its rays all silvered,
and time and again the darkness would be broken
by the crash of a wave,
and every day on the balcony of the sea,
wings open, fire is born,
and everything is blue again like morning.

Kiss-principled, pan sautéed sweetbreads. Something akin to what he savored on some weekend mornings as a child.

SWEETBREADS WITH LEMONS & CAPERS

1 1/2 lbs sweetbreads, preferably veal
Whole milk

Sea salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
Cold water

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 t dried thyme
All purpose flour

3 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 C dry white wine
Juice of 2-3 lemons
2 T capers, rinsed

Capers, rinsed or
Chopped tarragon

Briefly rinse sweetbreads under cold water. Place them in a glass bowl, cover with milk, and allow to soak several hours. Remove the sweetbreads, discarding the milk. Using a sharp paring knife and fingers, remove excess membrane or fat. Do not overly obsess about peeling, and do not fret if the sweetbreads separate some into sections. Rinse, pat dry and set aside.

In a heavy large saucepan filled 3/4 full, add a generous pinch of salt, lemon juice, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring the water to a boil, add the sweetbreads, and poach for about 5 minutes. Remove the sweetbreads and briefly plunge them into an ice bath, then drain promptly and dry thoroughly.

Line a small sheet pan with a kitchen towel and place the sweetbreads on the towel in a single layer. Fold the towel over them to cover, then place a same-sized sheet pan on top. Weigh the top pan down with whatever works–a brick, cans of tomatoes, a hand weight. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove from the frig, place sweetbreads on a large platter and bring to room temperature. Season with salt, pepper and thyme and dust in flour, lightly coating on all sides. Melt butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat until bubbling but not browning. Sauté sweetbreads until nicely golden brown, turning once. Place the sautéed sweetbreads on a platter or baking dish and set aside, tenting loosely with foil to keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with wine and just bring to a quiet boil, scraping to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower to a gentle simmer, add the sweetbreads and finish until just cooked through, about 5 minutes, turning as needed. During the last minute or so, add the lemon juice and capers and cook until sauce has slightly thickened.

Plate sweetbreads, drizzle with sauce, then garnish with capers or chopped tarragon.

Herbs & Capers

July 9, 2011

The mind is its own place.

I began to write about how this week Colts tight end John Mackey died from frontal temporal dementia the result of multiple cerebral trauma; how cyclist Chris Horner suffered a severe concussion from a Tour crash on a narrow, ditched road forcing his confused withdrawal; how over decades hundreds of thousands of now forgotten soldiers have sustained grave head injuries, coming home afoot or in boxes. All of that rattled gray matter. The altered consciousness, amnesia, flashbacks, dizziness, seizures, ringing ears, double vision, skewed dreams, agonized psyches, malaise, deprived sleep, anxiety, woeful depression…and more. So much more than a dismissive “shake it off” or simplistic alert + oriented x 3.

Instead, my memory safely drifted to sunflowers. During a recent stage in Normandie, the peloton swept by a field teeming with these flowering heads. But, the yellow radiant blooms were turned away, shyly shunning the cameras. Yet somehow, almost bewitchingly, the brain adjusted and turned the hidden lemon flowers toward the mind’s eye. Despite reality, my mind embraced a yellow pallette.

HERB & CAPER SAUCE

1 C ciabatta or baguette, crusts removed, torn into pieces
3 T sherry or champagne vinegar

3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 C fresh flat leaf parsley
3 T basil leaves
1 t fresh thyme leaves
1/2 t fresh sage leaves

4 T capers, rinsed and drained
1 egg yolk

1 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the bread and sherry or champagne vinegar, and toss together, and allow sit for 10 minutes or so

Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and add the garlic. Chop more finely, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you pulse the processor. Add the herbs to the processor, and pulse several times until contents are finely chopped. Add the bread, capers and egg yolk to the bowl, and pulse the processor on and off until well blended, about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides again, then turn on and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drizzle over grilled or roasted meats, fish, breads, and even pasta.

The nut does not reveal the tree it contains.
~Egyptian Proverb

Tapenade, that luscious Provençal olive spread, takes on a nutty tinge by adding roasted pistachios.

Even though the base ingredient is olives, the word, tapenade, actually derives from the Occitan word for capers, tapèno. Hark back. Those delectable caper buds were once preserved in amphoras, graceful, long-necked and two-handled ceramic vases, brimming with olive oil. Over time, the tapèno would meld together to form a paste which became the precusor of modern tapenade.

Tapenade can be prepared using a mortar and pestle or a food processor fitted with a metal blade. It is exquisitely versatile: breads, pizzas, paninis, pastas, potatoes, eggs, poultry, meats, fish, and so on. Tightly sealed, it keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

GRILLED VEAL CHOPS WITH PISTACHIO & GREEN OLIVE TAPENADE

4 – 1 3/4″ thick bone-in veal loin chops
Herbes de Provence
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary sprigs

1 C pistachios, shelled, roasted and coarsely chopped
1 C pitted green Lucques or Picholines olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3 T capers, rinsed and dried
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and chopped
1 high quality anchovy fillets, rinsed, dried and chopped
2 t Dijon mustard
2 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 T fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Tapenade
If the anchovy is salt packed, let it stand in a bowl of milk for 15 minutes to exude the salt. Then, drain and pat dry thoroughly.

Combine the pistachios, olives, capers, garlic, anchovy, mustard, and herbs in a food processor and purée by pulsing. With the processor running, add enough olive oil in a slow, steady stream until thoroughly incorporated and a thick, spreadable paste forms. Add the lemon zest, season with pepper, stir well and then let the tapenade to stand for an hour or so to allow the flavors to wed.

Lightly season the veal chops with pepper and herbes de Provence. Then, spread half the tapenade over the veal chops, cover and refrigerate for several hours. Reserve the remaining tapenade.

Veal Chops
Remove veal chops from the refrigerator. Prepare the grill for direct medium high heat. The grill is ready when pain demands you retract an open hand held about three inches above the hot grate with spread coals within 3 seconds. Before grilling, veal chops should be nearing room temperature.

Drop rosemary sprigs into the hot coals to impart aroma to the meat. Grill the veal chops for 5-7 minutes or so on each side for medium rare. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the veal chops and the heat of the grill. The meat should be firm and only gently yielding to a finger. Remove the chops from grill and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes. Then plate the chops, topping each with a generous spoonful of the reserved tapenade.

Something so statuesque as a veal chop should be served atop a frog prince, puréed celeriac.