Thursday, January 14, 2010

Artificial sunset (on the table)

My beautiful sunny California has been blanketed by fog for two weeks. We are not used to not getting any sunshine for so long, everyone was feeling low on energy. And confined: there is no reason to go anywhere on a weekend if all you will see is the same grey.

The last weekend's weather called for staying at home and cooking, and for some bright colors on the table. To make up for not seeing the sunset, I made a sunset colored salad with small purple, red, golden and white beets, roasted (unpeeled, untrimmed) at 375 degrees, in a dish with some water on the bottom, covered with foil, for about 40 minutes. When roasted this way, the beets leak very little juice, so the colors stay true. I still try to keep the purple beets in one corner of the dish, separated by some space from the rest. They do give off a little juice, and you don't need much of this juice to stain everything else. I also cut off the top of a head of garlic, wrapped it in foil, and roasted it alongside the beets. When the beets are cool, peel, quarter, mix with baby arugula, add roasted garlic, squeezed out of it's skin, dress with olive oil and red wine vinegar, sprinkle sel gris or sea salt on top.
For a chunky three-cabbage soup I sauteed celery, parsnip, onion and garlic, added one of my "bouillon cubes" (chicken stock that I freeze in square plastic containers), waited for it to melt, and brought to a boil. Then I added chopped Savoy cabbage, cavolo nero, and halved brussels sprouts, crumbled some dry herbs, and simmered until the cabbages were almost done. Added torn prosciutto slices, little dry pasta rings, adjusted the salt, waited for the pasta to cook (11 minutes), served the soup with a spoonful of Creme Fraiche.

For the main course, Ono steaks, pan-fried in half olive oil and half butter. The fish doesn't just turn a beautiful sunny golden color, but it's very Hawaiian flavor (and name) bring back the memories of warm sunny days.
Steamed Blue Lake beans (I know, I know, I overcooked the beans. Never again, I promise.) Sauteed chanterelle mushrooms.
I thinned Maui onions that are growing from seeds in a patio box and seem to like the fog very much, so the green onions on top are yet another Hawaiian reference.

The walnut bread is Jamie Oliver's basic bread recipe (halved; it still gave me more bread then we can eat - two medium loaves. Fortunately, it keeps well). I have mixed in two handfulls of walnut halves and pieces (and, as became clear at dinner, a couple of shell pieces too).

Baked at 500 degrees for about 15 minutes ( I sprayed some water in the oven before putting the bread in, to help with the crust), then at 375 degrees until baked through and the tap on the bottom gives a hollow sound.

This weekend it's raining, and we are told that a major Pacific winter storm is coming our way. We are all ready for a serious carwash. Stay home and cook again. Well, we made a brief trip to Napa, just for a glass of Champagne at Gloria Ferrer, and even saw something that we thought may have been a little sunshine between the clouds, for a moment. Then stay home and cook again.
I am making duck legs confit, smoking beef sausages, baking more walnut bread, curing bacon, and we are also planning a beef fondue + hot spiced wine, by the fireplace. We will survive the winter. The spring is near.

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