Archive for Main Dish

Winter Tomato Soup

winter tomato soupAs far as I am concerned, I grow tomatoes for winter eating. In fact, this year, I am mostly growing paste tomatoes: Roma, Amish Paste, San Marzano, and Grandma Mary’s Paste

Tomatoes in summer? oh, sure, I like a good tomato sandwich as much as anyone (they are a summer staple lunch in fact). And roasted tomatoes, fast or slow, as well as tomato salad or gazpacho or the occasional tomato sorbet.

But in February nothing beats a lasagna redolent with garlicky and rosemary tomato sauce (unless it’s one with mushroom & bechamel) nor homemade pizza with thick red sauce. Or a piping hot tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwich. All perfect comfort food that’s warming and delicious. A pleasure to eat when it’s gray and cold. And that is why I bother and can tomatoes.

The soup is easy, comforting and delicious. Read more

Mushroom & Crème Fraiche Pizza

Homemade pizza is one of the simple pleasures of life. Make dough. Let rise (as many as 4 or 5 days in the fridge if needed). Roll out dough. Spread toppings. Put in a very hot oven. Open a bottle of beer or pour a glass of wine. Patient 10 minutes. Enjoy.

PS – use a pizza stone: it will immensely increase the quality of your pizza. One word: perfect crust!

PPS – neither tomato nor pepperoni necessary (although sometimes they have their use!)

Mushroom & Crème Fraiche Pizza Read more

A Different Kind Of Pie

French Réunion Island where I grew up has a multi-ethnic population, hailing from France, the West coast of Africa, the East Coast of India (Malabar coast), Pakistan (people came when Pakistan was part of the British empire), and Indochina. Its cooking reflects the diversity of its population, each group’s culinary traditions enriching the common cooking pot.

An example is Paté Créole, a savory meat pie probably of French and Indian origins served on feast days, particularly at the beginning of the Christmas or New Year’s Eve meal.

So I think it’s an appropriate pie for Thanksgiving. Read more

Venison Chili (with Vanilla and Cocoa)


Venison Chili

The flavors of chili

Bow hunting season is less than 2 weeks away. And I am ever so hopeful for a good harvest this year. It is really time too make room in the freezer and use last year’s harvest… and with weather being now markedly – and blessedly – cooler (especially at night), what’s not to like about a good batch of venison chili?

You don’t often see cocoa and vanilla bean called for in chili, but it’s a great combination with chile peppers. We are so used to cocoa and vanilla in sweet recipes that we too often overlook how well they work in savory dishes. In fact, in their native Central America, they weren’t used for sweets. It’s the European palate that added sugar and milk to cocoa to turn it into chocolate as we know it today — and used vanilla for dessert.

If you do not have venison, use fully grass-fed, grass-finished beef – the kind that ‘s on pasture their entire life, and if you can, not Angus but a breed with a more robust flavor, like Texas Long Horn, Scottish Highland or Red Devon. They are perfect for that recipe. But – like venison, they are super lean, hence the need for ground pork (which is also sold as plain/unseasoned bulk sausage).

Venison Chili with Vanilla and Cocoa
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Spring Salads


Every spring , without fail, I become almost tear-eyed that we are eating great bowls of arugula, spinach, mache, sorrel, chicories and the very first of the lettuces – all planted last fall, all growing again with the milder temperatures… and the rain.Brave greens braving the still chilly weather, they show us winter’s over.

Greens make wonderful companions to fried eggs, poached eggs, omelet, lard-fried croutons, bacon, lardons, duck-fat fried potatoes, duck breasts, thinly cut steaks, any meat really… any thing really. Early spring greens are just glorious, so alive. And I am glad I have them, because, I have to wait at least 30 days before I’ll be able to harvest from the just planted seeds. And with spending so much time out, we definitively need a lot of those quick lunches.

One of my favorite quick meals is a green salad topped with warm breaded goat cheese on a croute (a croute is a French crostini – or vice-versa). I like to marinate the goat cheese ahead of time for added flavor – and I’ll often marinate a lot more than what’s immediately needed – they’ll keep well in the fridge for a few weeks. In a pinch,  if you did not marinate the cheese but want that salad right now, just brush the freshly cut rounds with oil before breading them. Read more

Fast Food My Way (Tongue it is!)

We eat plenty of fast food here – especially for lunch. Don’t believe me? well… take a look at the picture of one of our not unusual lunches.


  • Green salad from the garden (Pick early in the morning, wash, dry, refrigerate, ready to go in seconds) with hard boiled eggs from the hen house (hard boil, refrigerate – they will keep several days and only take seconds to chop and add to the salad)
  • Various homemade pickles: curried zucchini pickles, dilly green beans, cornichons and green tomato relish. Made last summer. 3 seconds to open each jar.
  • Sliced Beef Tongue with really good mustard. Tasty (really! don’t knock it off until you try it), easy, inexpensive. What else do you want? Prepare the tongue up to days in advance, keep it in the fridge, ready to slice at a moment’s notice for sandwiches or just for a cold cut platter with pickled veggies.
  • Sun tea: steeped in the sun in 1/2 gallon jar and rebottled in recycled glass bottle for more convenience.

Voila – that is slow food, but it is also fast food. Better: it’s real food.

The how to on cooking beef tongue (or other tongues for that matter like lamb), you may find here at DC-based The Slow Cook. Ed Bruske gives very detailed instructions on how to cook tongue and brine it first – if you want.

But really, it’s easy to cook tongue; in a nutshell, this is what you do: Read more

Oxtail Soup

A dish of oxtail soup is a thing to share with those you love. Or not. (depends how much you love them)

What’s not to like about oxtail?

It’s traditional farm fare, a simple country dish with robust complex favors – many parts of the world have perfectly succulent ways to use oxtail as a matter of fact. It’s a slow simmered dish, perfect for cold days. It’s a dish that can be made in advance and in quantity. Reheating it makes it even better.


Never had oxtail? If you like osso bocco, you are simply going to love oxtail. It might take a little looking to find them, although they are becoming more popular. It used to be a throwaway part of the animal – and used to be very inexpensive. But chefs in search of robust flavors obtained from slow traditional methods and the new-again emphasis on eating from nose-to-tail, is making oxtail almost trendy. So more expensive. It is one of the few cuts that I buy retail: there is after all only one tail in cattle, so when I buy a split beef half, I get – at most , if I am lucky – one tail. Hardly enough. The farmer I buy it from sells it for less than burger meat, typically the cheapest cut. So, still a pretty good deal.

Maybe oxtail is intimidating because people think of it as offal and are grossed out. Technically it is offal, but it is not an organ. Not that that would stop me from eating it if it were. Or maybe people are intimidated because they do not know how to cook it. It’s simple really, it should be cook slow. Very slow. A day in advance if possible so it has a chance to sit and mellow even more. Read more

A Mess of Oysters

I love fresh oysters. When we lived in the city, we used to go to the wharf for Christmas and New Year, get fresh oysters in their shell, mud from the Chesapeake bay still clinging to them. Later that day, Keith would scrub them clean, open them and arrange them on trays of ice. A squeeze of lemon, a little bread with good butter, a glass of champagne, more oysters, and that would New Year Dinner. They were a treat. Still are.

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US, provided ideal conditions for oyster to thrive – at least until the 20th century. Indian populations as well as colonists greatly enjoyed them, or – so we think -  based on the shell middens found in archaeological digs.

When I first encountered shucked oysters sold in a jar, I was shocked. I had no idea they were eaten, let alone sold, not in their shell. Eventually I got accustomed to the idea and have actually used such oyster for creamy stews.

And then at a rural cafe years ago, I saw “fried oysters” on the menu. Another moment of incredulity … promptly followed by an order of fried oysters. mmm… I was not impressed. Wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. And that was pretty much it until last year.

That’s when – another shock! – I realized how much people loved oysters around here. A lot. Except not raw. Fried. That was also rather surprising, but I will admit that there are good fried oyster and there are bad fried oysters. I have had both and some so-so (as in my first experience). And I have learned how to make good fried oysters from Danny at the Fire Hall.


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He Likes Duck Fat


Potatoes fried in duck fat, with garlic & parsley, a very fresh green salad (with not a leaf of lettuce in sight) topped with a little bit of duck breast – a perfect lunch for this blessedly rainy Sunday.


Obviously, he thought so too (and had an intense lemon tart with coffee for dessert).

This meal is characteristic of improvised cooking; you know, cooking without a recipe based on what you’ve got. We had a breast of duck left from a roast and duck fat just rendered from that same roast, and potatoes, of course. That calls for potatoes in duck fat, reminiscent of Pommes de Terre à la Sarladaise, a dish named after the town of Sarlat in Southwest France. While one variations on this homey dish includes truffles, the poor woman’s version (mine) makes do with garlic. Don’t knock it off until you’ve tried it: duck fat makes the best fried potatoes. As far as the green salad, it was a mix of mache, sorrel, baby red Russian kale & Tuscan kale, and frisée endive, fresh from the garden. Any good-quality store bought mesclun will do; make sure it’s on the robust side so it can take the hot dressing, and with a hint of bitterness or tartness to stand up to the richness of the potatoes.

End of Winter Salad with Duck Breast & Potatoes in Duck Fat Read more

Presto Garden Buckwheat Noodles


I don’t know about you, but when I am home working and need a quick lunch, I want it QUICK. It’s often throwing together a green salad & omelet, or fajitas (or quesadillas), or – in winter – reheating some soup and making a sandwich (tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich being a favorite). Sometime, I want a little more, though, and that’s when stir-fry come to the rescue. Like today.

All one need is some noodles, a couple of veggies to keep the taste simple, some seasoning, and a little protein – today, it was eggs. At other time, left over meat or chicken works just fine.

So I put a big pot of water to boil. Run to the the garden to see what I can get and settle on some baby kale and tatsoi (raiding the fridge will do, in a pinch); I’ve got plenty of shallots, garlic and ginger on hand (I know, it amazes you that I keep ginger on hand); soy sauce? here. Sesame oil? check. Looks like we are leaning towards “Asian” flavors here, so let’s use some buckwheat noodles… yes? yes! Let’s go. Stir-fry eggs, then the veggies as the pasta cooks, add pasta, add seasoning. Serve. Eat.

Oh, and do note, that this is very flexible. Adjust the quantities to fit your needs and appetite. I only provide quantities for those people who can’t do without. You know who you are. Ah, yes, I need to call this something too, right? How about Presto Garden Buckwheat Noodles? I am hungry, so that’s good enough. Read more