Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bistro-Style Steak with Sauce Marchand

This is a good-sized piece of meat on a small plate. I was only able to eat about half of it. The rest will go into a dinner salad. Check out the Thai-Style Steak Dinner Salad in the Dinner Salad section of this blog.

2 rib steaks, ½ to ¾ inch thick or up to 1 inch
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup minced shallots
½ cup dry red wine or a bit more
Salt and pepper to taste for the sauce

1. Trim the steaks of external fat. Pat them dry; sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme, pressing the seasonings into both sides.
2. Heat a heavy nonstick skillet or cast iron frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the butter. When it has melted and is near sizzling, put the steaks in the pan, searing them for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, depending upon the thickness of the steaks and how you like them cooked. (Four minutes per side works for a 1-inch room temperature steak, if you like medium rare.) Keep the heat high, but don’t let the butter burn. (I hate testing for doneness by cutting into the steak, but sometimes you just have to do it.) When the steaks are done to your liking, remove to a warm platter and loosely cover with foil while you prepare the sauce.
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the pan juices. Return the skillet to the heat and add the shallots; sauté until they are translucent. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits clinging to it.
4. Reduce the wine by half (it will thicken), then stir in the remaining butter. Taste for salt and pepper; add more as desired. Pour the hot sauce over the steaks.

2 servings with plenty left over 
Adapted from editors Michael Bauer and Fran Irwin’s The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook

These are both lovely dishes to have with your steak:

French Potato Salad

Oven-Roasted Asparagus
This is the first asparagus of the season and I just couldn't resist passing along a recipe which many of you probably already know. It is a great easy way to prepare this harbinger of spring.

Bobotie from South Africa

There are so many cultures involved in South African cuisine. I knew nothing about the complexity and the diversity until I found two South African cookbooks and started cooking. Dutch settlers (the Afrikaners) brought a European influence with Milk Tarts and other delicious baked goods along with an amazing barbeque (braai) with beef and chicken; Malay laborers from Java and Indonesia brought their spices; indigenous Africans added in cornmeal porridge and greens, reminders for us of the soul food of the American south; Indians brought their curries. I love how the colors and flavors intermingle and dance with each other. Bobotie is a classic example.

2 onions, finely chopped
2 pounds ground beef, or a mix of ground meats
1 slice bread
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
1½ tablespoons sugar
½ cup raisins
3 tablespoons chutney, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Zest of 1 lemon, see photos if you need them
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup slivered almonds
1 egg

1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
2. Sauté beef or meat mix with onions until meat is brown, breaking the meat up into small pieces. If necessary, drain fat from the pan and discard.
3. Soak the bread in half the milk; mash it with a fork. Add it to the meat.
4. Combine all the remaining ingredients except the egg and the remaining milk. Spread the mixture in a greased casserole.
5. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Beat the egg with the remaining ½ cup milk and pour it over the casserole. Return to the oven for another ½ hour.

6 servings
Adapted from The Africa News Cookbook

Here are several lovely dishes to go along with your Bobotie:

Braised Carrots

 Oven-Roasted Zucchini

 Yellow Rice

The Best Chili

As a child I used to get so confused by homonyms, two words with the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings. Like pair and pear or chili and chilly. For a long time I connected my mom’s Chili con Carne with chilly weather. And perhaps that’s suitable. In my household, it's a blustery spring favorite.

2 pounds ground chuck or 1 pound beef and 1 pound pork
Note: You can also use ground dark turkey meat.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon fat if you have some
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground chile molido
½ teaspoon ground chipotle chile, more if you like your chili spicy
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon smoky sweet or regular paprika
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ cups liquid: stock, apple juice, wine or a mix
Note: Don’t use more than 1 cup apple juice or the chili will be too sweet.
1 16-ounce can kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained, optional
Zest from 1 orange, see photos if you need them
¼ cup fresh orange juice

Garnishes, any or all:
Sour cream
Diced avocado mixed with a little lemon juice
Chopped scallions
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Fresh cilantro

1. In a large pot, brown the meat, drain, and tip into a bowl.
2. In the same pot, heat oil and brown the onion, celery, carrots, red bell pepper, and garlic. Add the seasonings (cumin through the black pepper) and cook for a minute or two.
3. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, the liquid, and the meat. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the beans if you desire and cook for an additional 30 minutes. If you don’t add the beans, continue cooking the meat mixture for an additional 30 minutes.
5. Just before serving, remove the cinnamon sticks and add the orange zest and juice. Cook 10 minutes longer. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot in bowls large enough to include the garnishes.
6. Put the garnishes into bowls and serve at the table.

4-6 servings
Adapted from the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties’ Even More Special and the San Francisco Chronicle Food section’s Chili with Black Beans and Meaty Chili with Cinnamon

Mango and Hearts of Palm Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

You could also serve a Everyday Green Salad, Jicama Slaw or Erasto’s Coleslaw.

Classic Oatmeal Cookies

Persian Meatloaf

As I have mentioned before, I am a great fan of Persian food. In this menu, I have mixed a Persian meatloaf with various other non-Persian dishes, just to show you how nicely Persian food can fit into most any menu.

Just in case you're wondering, I take all my own photos, usually immediately before we sit down to eat. They are not styled. This photo, in particular, doesn’t do justice to how delicious this meatloaf actually is. But it is the truth. Your dish will look very much like mine if you fix it.

1½ pounds ground beef or lamb or combination of the two
Note: It would also be possible to use ground turkey.
1 medium onion, grated in the food processor
¼ cup finely chopped green onions
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup finely chopped celery leaves
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 slice white bread, milk or water
Chopped parsley and sumac to garnish, optional

1. Soak the bread in water or milk while you do the next steps.
2. Use the food processor to grate the onion and then to chop the herbs. No need to wash out in between the two.
3. Put the meat in a large bowl. Add all the ingredients except the bread. Squeeze the bread dry in your hands and tear into pieces. Add to the meat mixture.
4. Mix the ingredients with your hands until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
5. Place in a loaf pan, or form into a round on a low-sided pan and bake for 1 hour in a 350ºF oven. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and sumac before serving.

Some people I know and love eat this with ketchup or barbeque sauce. Others enjoy it with yogurt.

4 servings
Adapted from Maideh Mazda’s In a Persian Kitchen

These two non-Persian dishes are delicious with the meatloaf.

Roasted Potatoes


Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Corn Salad with Basil
You can vary the amounts of these ingredients according to your taste and what you have on hand.

Picadillo (Mexican/Cuban Meat Hash)

David, the fellow who cuts my hair, and his partner Jason traveled to Cuba as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Vinceremos Brigade. They had very full days beginning with early morning field work, meetings with Cuban dignitaries, long bus rides, and evening parties with music, dancing, and rum. I asked about the food, of course. Not a great report: meal after meal of rice and beans and very plain chicken. So I began to think about what a really wonderful simple Cuban meal might taste like and this is what I imagined.

1½ pounds lean ground beef (or a combination of ground beef and pork)
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons oil
2 fresh tomatoes or 4 fresh Romas, seeded and chopped, see seeding instructions if you need them
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder (molido, ancho, or passila)
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup raisins
¼ cup slivered green olives
½ cup slivered blanched almonds
A mix of chopped parsley, cilantro, and green onions, optional
Corn or flour tortillas, warmed in the oven or microwave
Sour cream, optional

1. In a sauté pan or pottery skillet cook the onions in the oil until translucent and soft. Add the meat and cook until done. If you are using the pottery skillet, keep the heat on medium to prevent cracking. This process will take longer.
2. Add all the remaining ingredients except the almonds. Bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
3. Stir in the almonds. Place in a serving bowl or bring the pottery skillet to the table and sprinkle with the optional parsley, cilantro, and green onions.

4. Fill the tortilla with a nice amount of the picadillo and sour cream, as desired. Wrap and eat with your hands.

4-5 servings
Adapted from Elena Zelayeta’s Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking

This salad is so refreshing with the Picadillo. You'll love it.

Ensalada criolla (Creole Salad) with Vinagreta Cubana

Pork Piccata

This is an old stand-by because it is fast and delicious. But I have had problems with it in the last couple of years as the pork we get is leaner and leaner--perhaps good for our health--but definitely not as succulent and juicy. So I've tried to find less lean pork (I bought part of a piggy which had been raised organically by students at Sonoma Valley High School and it worked really well) and cook it as short a time as possible.

1½ pounds pork butt or boneless pork chops, sliced ¼ to ½-inch thin
Note: I look for pork that has some marbling of fat in the meat. Boneless pork chops work well if they have some fat in the meat. If it is too lean, the meat dries out in an instant.
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, slivered
Note: You can use more garlic if you are a true garlic-lover.
Zest of 1 lemon, zester or microplane but I prefer the zester, see photos if you need them
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup white wine
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. This dish cooks so fast, you really need to have all the ingredients prepped and set to go before you start cooking. So sliver the garlic, zest the lemon, juice it, measure the capers and the white wine, and chop the parsley. There, you’re set.
2. Mix the salt, pepper and the flour in a clean plastic sack. Dredge the pork a few slices at a time and lay in a single layer on a plate. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper.
3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and fry until lightly brown. Remove it from the pan and set aside, leaving as much of the oil as possible.
4. In the same oil, lightly brown the pork slices on both sides in one or more batches, about 1 minute on each side or a little longer if the meat is thicker. Remove the pork from the pan as it finishes. The meat will continue to cook while it sits.
5. Add the lemon juice, white wine, capers, lemon zest and reserved garlic to the pan, set over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Reduce the sauce for just a moment, taste for seasonings and adjust as you see fit.
6. Return the meat to the pan for a minute, shaking the pan a bit so that the sauce is thickened by the flour on the meat. The meat should be slightly pink in the middle.
7. Place on warmed plates or a serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Adapted from Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet

Here is what a zester looks like:

You might to add the following dishes  to make a wonderful supper:

Oven-roasted Zucchini

 Coconut Rice

Pueblo Green Chile Stew

I need to visit New Mexico once a year. Primarily I need to see my dear friends Anne Sigler and George Muedeking who left the Bay area a couple of years ago and now live in the East Mountains outside of Albuquerque. But there are a couple of other reasons as well. I have to see the sky. Living as I do in urban areas, I don’t see enough of the sky from one horizon to another and I need it; my spirit needs it. And then there is the food. I love New Mexican Green Chile stews. On a recent trip I had an excellent one at the café at Acoma Pueblo some ways south of Albuquerque. The café’s stew replaced the tomatoes in the recipe below with chicken stock and added a little more heat, but in all other ways was like this one. Just lovely. The café served it with plain white bread. I think flour tortillas and especially Lemon Cornbread are great along side the stew. A friend of mine fancies the cornbread crumbled into the stew.

2 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon olive oil, butter, lard, or bacon fat
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 fresh tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt plus more to taste
1½ teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder or to taste—this provides the heat
¼ cup chicken stock, if necessary
10 poblano (sometimes called pasilla) chiles or Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped, see roasting instructions if you need them
Note: These are fresh, green and mild. You can do this process ahead. In a pinch you could use canned chiles.
1 yellow summer squash or yellow zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into ½-inch slices
1 green zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into ½-inch slices
1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed
1 bunch cilantro, leaves removed and chopped
Sour cream

1. Place part of the pork cubes in a plastic bag with the flour. Shake around and remove to a plate. Continue with the remaining cubes until all are lightly dusted with flour. Add more flour if necessary. Place on a plate.
2. Melt the fat, whichever you choose, in a large, heavy skillet or sauté pan. Add as many pork cubes as will easily cover the bottom of the pan with some space around each cube. Don’t crowd. Turn until all sides are golden. Remove the browned pork from the pan and place on a plate. Repeat with remaining pork, adding more fat if necessary.
3. In the same pan, add the onions and garlic; cook until soft and all the golden crust (flour which stuck to the pan) from the bottom has been dislodged and mixed in with the onion.
4. Place the meat, onions and garlic in a large stew pot. Add the tomatoes, salt, oregano, cumin, coriander, and chipotle chile powder. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and cooked. Add stock if the mixture is too thick.
5. Add the green chiles, the yellow squash and zucchini and simmer for 30 minutes or until the squash is nicely tender but not falling apart, adding a little more stock if necessary.
6. Five minutes before serving, mix in the corn kernels and half of the chopped cilantro. Simmer until the corn is cooked. Taste for seasoning.
7. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle each bowl with a bit of the remaining chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream. You can put bowls of sour cream and cilantro on the table and help yourselves.
Serve with flour tortillas (which would be traditional) or Lemon Cornbread which is not traditional but complements the stew nicely. With the stew, I would omit the blueberries in the Cornbread.

4-6 servings
Starting point was The Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Santa Fe Kitchens: Delicious Recipes from the Southwest, but made a significant number of changes

Lemon Cornbread

Bacon-Tomato-Corn Ragout with Creamy Polenta

My sweetheart, Katherine, is a great fan of one-dish meals. Or rather one-plate meals. She is after all the  dishwasher in the household and her job is made considerably easier with a one plate dinner. Some pots and pans, of course, but not as many, and two plates which can be tucked into the dishwasher without much fuss. More importantly, though, I think that her spirit is nourished by a meal that is less complicated, by one dish with abundant flavor, such as the Bacon-Tomato-Corn Ragout that follows, on a bed of something soothing and comforting, in this case Creamy Polenta. It is straightforward and delicious. And that’s it.

10 thick bacon slices, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
Note: Buy the best you can like Niman Ranch or a good local producer
2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon fat
2 medium onions, sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes or smoky hot paprika
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears) or frozen corn if you are desperate
7 Roma tomatoes, peeled if you want, seeded, cored and coarsely chopped
Note: I tried heirloom tomatoes. They were too juicy for this dish. If you want to use them, drain them really well before adding to the ragout.
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup shredded basil for garnish, see instructions
Fleur de sel or other large grain finishing salt
One recipe of Creamy Polenta

1. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon pieces over low to medium-low heat, turning to achieve uniform crispness. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil or some bacon fat over medium heat. Add the onions and red pepper flakes or paprika, reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté until they are soft and amber, at least 20 minutes.
3. Add the corn, increase the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and three-fourths of the bacon pieces and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add a little more bacon fat if you think the dish needs it for heightened flavor. Stir in the chopped basil.
4. Reheat the Creamy Polenta and make soft flat mounds in the middle of 4 warm plates. Spoon the ragout over the top. Sprinkle with the shredded basil, the remaining bacon pieces, and a sprinkling of fleur de sel or other salt.

4-5 Servings
Adapted from Sara Perry’s Everything Tastes Better with Bacon

Creamy Polenta

Polenta, Sausage and Tomato Layers

This is one of those incredibly versatile dishes which is easy to prepare, immensely likable to just about every age group--especially teenage boys--with ingredients that can pretty much live in your cupboard or fridge. The better the ingredients you use in the dish, the better the result.

1 recipe Creamy Polenta
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 fresh uncooked sweet Italian sausages, skin removed, coarsely chopped
Note: If your Italian sausages are not flavored with fennel seed, you can add ¼ teaspoon fennel seed to the sausage as you cook it
1½ cups home-made tomato sauce or a good one in a jar
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼ to ½ inch thick
¼ teaspoon black pepper or Aleppo pepper

1. Make the polenta.
2. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter a 2½-quart flameproof casserole.
3. Add ¼ cup Parmesan cheese to the hot polenta. Stir well. Pour into the prepared casserole. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.
4. While the polenta is cooking, sauté the sausage over medium heat, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Add the sausage to the casserole on top of the polenta, forming an even layer. Spoon on the tomato sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Top with the mozzarella in an even layer. Sprinkle the mozzarella with black or Aleppo pepper (or both).
6. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. If the top is not browned to your liking, place the casserole under the broiler until browned, watching it carefully. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

6 servings
Adapted from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The New Basics

Creamy Polenta

Italian Sausages with Lentils

For the lentils:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Sprinkling of salt
2 cups dried Puy lentils (green or black or a mixture)
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
½ cup red wine
3 cups stock or water to cover the lentils
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sausages:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
6 fresh uncooked sweet Italian sausages
½ cup red wine
¼ cup water or stock
Flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1. To cook the lentils, put 2-3 tablespoons of oil into a good-sized pan or a Bram pot over low heat. When it’s warm, add the chopped onion and sprinkle with salt. Cook over a low heat until the onions are soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs, stir well, and cover generously with the red wine and the stock or water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for 30-50 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and most of the liquid’s absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can make this ahead. Reheat when you’re ready to proceed.
2. To cook the sausages, add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and the smashed garlic cloves to a heavy frying pan, and fry for a few minutes. Add the sausages and brown on all sides. Add the wine and stock, bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat, cover the pan and simmer the sausages for about 15 minutes, turning mid-way. When the sausages are done, cut in half on the diagonal, add them to the lentils. Mash the garlic into the remaining liquid and add it to the lentil pot. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper, or more liquid until it is to your liking.
3. Before serving, reheat the lentil and sausage mixture over low heat. Sprinkle with parsley.

4-6 servings
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites

Italian Sausages with Red Grapes

I truly love good sausage and I find them one of the quickest ways to get a delicious meal on the table. This recipe is no exception. The polenta will take you a bit of time but a nice loaf of bread would work just as well. A salad or some spinach and you're done.

1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh uncooked sweet Italian sausage (about 4-5 sausages)
Note: I buy Caggiano Sweet Italian in Sonoma; buy fresh good quality Italian sausage, usually with fennel seed, where ever you are.
1 pound seedless red grapes, stemmed
Note: You can also use 1 cup Oven-Roasted Grapes.
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary or thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet, add the onions, and cook until they are soft and amber. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Heat remaining olive oil in the same skillet over moderate heat until hot. Brown the sausages on all sides, poking them with a fork each time you turn them. This will take about 8 minutes.
3. Add ½ cup water to the pan, cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer the sausages until they are cooked through, about 10 minutes, turning once. Remove all but ¼ cup of the remaining liquid.
4. Add grapes and cook, stirring occasionally, until grapes are softened, 5 minutes or so. If using Oven-Roasted Grapes, you only need to cook them for a few minutes to warm them up.
5. Remove the sausages from the pan. Add the reserved onions, half of the rosemary or thyme, and the vinegar to the grapes and stir to mix everything together. Taste for salt and pepper and add as you see fit.
6. Cut the sausages in half and return to the pan. Heat briefly until everything is nicely hot. Sprinkle with remaining rosemary or thyme.

4 servings
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, October 2005

Creamy Polenta
You can add to the polenta in place of some of the milk the liquid in which the sausages have cooked.

CHAPTER 5: Dal: A Story about Indian Food

As you may recall from my posting on January 19, 2011, For the Fun and the Challenge: Indian Food for Sixteen, followed by A Taste of India, in Keepers: Recipes Worth Keeping, I cooked a fantastic Indian dinner party for 16 people. You can see from the post that it was a beautiful celebration of all kinds of Indian foods.

I was extremely pleased with myself for having done it, especially because I had only been introduced to Indian food in December 2010 in a cooking class at Rancho la Puerta taught by the wonderful Raghavan Iyer, author of many cookbooks, a great teacher, and a thoroughly lovely human being.

I have gone on to cook many Indian dinners for Katherine and me and for guests. There are weeks when I just can’t seem to get enough Indian flavors into my mouth. So night after night we’ll eat Indian until I get my fill and we can move on to a different cuisine or return to my other favorites, Middle Eastern and especially Persian. But then it’s once more back to Indian.

 My extensive lentil collection.

In the course of preparing so many Indian meals, I have fallen in love with dal, the bean or lentil dishes that are always (I say “always” with some trepidation but I truly think it is “always”) part of an Indian meal.  The recipes which follow are three of my favorites. You can substitute other beans for the chickpeas or other lentils for the lentils I’ve suggested. The dals will taste different but they will be your very own.

Chickpeas with Mango Powder

This recipe calls for mango powder which you can find at a purveyor of Indian spices in your area. I go to Vik’s Chaat Corner in Berkeley, located on Channing Way at Fourth Street. But don’t hesitate to use lime juice instead. Vary the amount of heat in the dish by starting with a small amount of cayenne, tasting the sauce (and waiting for the heat to build), and adding more to your taste. This dish benefits from sitting for a while after being made. The flavor sneaks into the chickpeas with every passing minute. Just reheat gently before serving.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 black, green or white cardamom pods
1-2 cinnamon sticks, 3 inches long
1 cup canned crushed or diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons mango powder or fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, ground, or 2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
½ teaspoons cayenne pepper [I used about 1/8 teaspoon]
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups cooked chickpeas, canned or cooked from dried beans
1 cup water or chicken stock
4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
¼ cup finely chopped red onion

1. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks and cook until they sizzle and smell aromatic, 10 to 15 seconds.
2. Add the tomatoes, mango powder or lime juice, coriander, ground cumin, salt, cayenne, and turmeric. Lower the heat to medium and simmer the sauce, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the chickpeas, 1 cup water or stock, and 2 tablespoons cilantro. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally until the chickpeas absorb the flavors, and the sauce thickens, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Sprinkle with the onion and the remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro and serve.

Makes 4 cups
Adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries

Dal with Coconut Milk

1 cup red lentils (masur dal), washed
3 – 4 cups water or mild stock
2 tablespoons canola oil
1½ tablespoons minced garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
¼ cup minced shallots or red onion
6–8 fresh or frozen curry leaves
1 dried red chile or more if you like
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1 cup canned or fresh coconut milk

1. Put the lentils in a medium pot with water or stock. The more liquid you add, the soupier the dish will be. I prefer a thicker dal so I add less liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Keep warm over low heat.
2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and toss in the garlic and shallots or onions and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
3. Add the curry leaves, red chile, and ground coriander, mix well, and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and coconut milk. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add this mixture to the hot lentils and simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Serve hot.

Serves 4
Adapted from Jeffry Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Mangoes & Curry Leaves

Red and Yellow Lentils

½ cup yellow lentils, look for little stones and discard
 Note: These could be yellow split peas (chana dal), split pigeon peas (toor dal) or split moong beans (moong dal). All are yellow in color.
½ cup red lentils (masur dal), look for little stones and discard
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (2 inches x 1 inch x 1/8th inch), finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
½-1 fresh green Thai, cayenne or Serrano chiles, or more to taste, stems removed
Note: Raghavan calls for 2 to 4 of these chiles. Go for it if you really like hot food.
2 tablespoons ghee or canola oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
30 medium-size fresh or frozen curry leaves
Note: These are really good but it is not the end of the world if you have to leave them out.

1. Place both kinds of lentils in a medium-size saucepan. Fill the pan with water and rinse the lentils until the water runs clear. Then add 3 cups water (or stock) and bring to a boil. Skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentil are tender and soft, 12 to 15 minutes.
2. While the lentils are cooking, combine the cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, and chiles in a mortar,  suribachi or mini-food processor and pound until they are crushed to a gritty, pulp-like paste. Don’t worry if the cumin seeds don’t break up much.
3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the ghee or oil and immediately add the onion and the spice paste. Stir-fry until the onion is lightly browned and the chiles are pungent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato, cilantro, salt, turmeric, and curry leaves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the tomato pieces break down, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. When the lentils are cooked, add the sauce and stir once or twice. Pour ½ cup water into the skillet to deglaze it; add the water to the lentils. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and simmer stirring occasionally until the lentils have absorbed the flavors, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot or warm. You can make this ahead and reheat just before serving.

Makes 4 cups
Adapted from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries

CHAPTER 6: Pasta Dishes and a Story about Eating in Rome

In the summer of 2008, we spent a week in Rome with our son and daughter-in-law, Franz and Michelle. We stayed in a wonderful apartment which gently shimmied every time the subway went underneath the building. It didn't bother us much because we were mostly out eating. Everything, of course, but a lot of fantastic pasta which spurred me to try a number of wonderful pasta dishes when we returned home. You'll find six of them in the recipes below.

Franz and Michelle who know the San Francisco food scene had talked to their savvy friends about eating in Rome and came equipped with a thirty page document of recommendations. Oh my, how to choose?

As the week drew to a close, they started double dining--two lunches and two dinners a day. Katherine and I cheered them on but declined to join them. One dinner and one lunch was more than enough for us. A great time and fabulous food.

Beautiful markets too.

Linguine with Lemon Sauce

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1½ cups heavy cream
Grated zest from 3 lemons, see photos below of the zester and the zest
Lemon juice from 3 lemons
1 pound fresh linguine
9 ounces dried thin spaghetti
3 tablespoons salt for the pasta water
1 teaspoon salt for the sauce or to taste
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or other hard cheese, freshly grated at the table

1. Put 6 quarts of water in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, combine the butter, cream, and lemon juice over low heat in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta later on. As soon as the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the heat, cover, and set aside.
3. When the water is boiling, add 3 tablespoons salt and the pasta, stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook until tender (fresh pasta won’t take long). Drain, leaving a few drops of water clinging to the pasta so that the sauce will adhere.

4. Transfer the pasta to the skillet, off the heat, and toss to blend. Add the salt, lemon zest, and toss once more. Cover and let rest for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Transfer to warmed shallow bowls, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately. Pass the hunk of cheese with a microplane or a cheese grater for you and your guests to grate as desired.

3-4 servings as a main dish
Adapted from Patricia Wells’ Trattoria

The zester. Of course, you can also use a microplane if you want tiny pieces of zest.
The zest. This is just one lemon's worth.

So great with the silkiness of the pasta:

Simple Sautéed Fresh Spinach or Swiss Chard

Pesto with Pasta

¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan plus more to grate at the table
Note: If you need to grate your Parmesan, do it first in the food processor before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
4 packed cups fresh basil leaves
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ cup pine nuts (you can substitute slivered almonds)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Combine the cheese, basil, garlic, and nuts in a food processor and process until the mixture is well combined.
2. Add the melted butter with the motor running and up to 1/3 cup olive oil. You can also add a small amount of water if the pesto is too thick. It should drape nicely over a mound of pasta without being runny. Add salt to taste.
3. Serve with hot drained pasta. You can pass more cheese at the table.

4-6 servings
Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
Tasty with pesto and a perfect color on the plate.

Puttanesca Sauce

1 can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, undrained
12 garlic cloves, pressed
2 cans (28 ounces each) plum tomatoes
4 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded saving the juice, see instructions if you need them, coarsely chopped
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup capers, drained
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
¼ cup balsamic or red wine vinegar

1. Place the anchovies and the garlic in a heavy large sauce pan or sauté pan. Mash thoroughly into a paste over low heat. Use a knife and fork to cut into pieces if necessary.
2. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives; stir over medium high heat.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. With fresh tomatoes and their juice, it might take two hours depending on their juiciness. The sauce should be nice and thick.
4. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve over thin spaghetti. Traditionally this dish is served without cheese, but who’s stopping you if you want it.

Note: You probably won’t need salt because of the saltiness of the anchovies, capers and olives. But taste to make sure.

6 servings
Adapted from Julee Rosso’s Great Good Food

Penne with a Slow-Cooked Sausage Sauce

When summer draws to a close and there is just the first hint of autumn in the air, I get hungry for pasta, especially the ones calling for a lot of fresh tomatoes. With a really simple salad, it is the perfect dinner.

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 fresh uncooked sweet Italian sausages, meat removed from skins and crumbled
Note: I use Caggiano Sweet Italian sausage from Sonoma Market.
2 small red onions, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 or 2 small dried hot chile pepper, seeds removed if you desire
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine (preferably Chianti or Sangiovese)
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped, see instructions if you need them
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (or grate your own)
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup heavy cream
1 heaping cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more for the table
11 ounces penne rigate

1. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the sausage meat, stirring and breaking up the pieces. When the meat is cooked, add the onions, garlic, chiles, and bay leaves. Cook gently for 20 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.
2. Pour in the wine, increase the heat and cook until the wine evaporates.
3. Add the tomatoes, lower the heat and simmer gently until the sauce is thick, an hour or more depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes.
4. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the cream and keep warm over a very low heat.
5. Cook the penne until al dente. Drain well. Place it in a warm bowl and add the sauce and cheese. Stir together and serve with additional cheese.

4-6 servings
Adapted from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers’ Rogers Gray Italian Country Cook Book

A great accompaniment:

Everyday Green Salad with Everyday Salad Dressing