London’s Most Exclusive Couscous

There’s nothing new about couscous with tomatoes and, perhaps, herbs, served either cold as a salad or hot as a side dish. So I was a little surprised at my delight when I had a particularly delicious version the other day. I guess I was surprised mainly because this was at a private club in London, one of those leather-bound places that began to admit women as members only ten minutes (or fifteen years) ago. Clubs like this aren’t supposed to serve decent food, only excellent booze, including ancient Bordeaux at less-than-liquor-store prices. I won’t mention its name, because if I do a notice will appear on the bulletin board, beginning “Members are reminded….” Not that I’m a member, but one must play the game.

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Posted in Middle Eastern

Eggheads

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By Edward Schneider

Look at the pictures above, of the chicken house at Flying Pigs Farm in upstate New York. 

Now read this.

Do you see why those who have recently been deriding “locavores” as cranks are missing the point? It isn’t always about carbon footprint or ideology: it is often just about plain good food.

Posted in Farming

Garden Candy

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By Edward Schneider 

I’ve said before that it gives me a thrill to pick and immediately cook produce from my father-in-law’s garden in the UK. I’m a city boy and the son of city folk: my father was born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and, although my mother’s parents kept a few chickens in their yard outside Czestochowa, Poland, their emigration to Brooklyn when my mother was twelve marked the end of animal husbandry for them. So, I am innately ignorant of tilling the soil. My limbs, like those of Mrs. Sullen in George Farquhar’s 1707 comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem, were not made for leaping of ditches and clambering over stiles. Much less for hoeing and weeding. 

But I’ve long harbored the illusion that, apart from die-hard Londoners (who are just as bad as us New Yorkers), Britons are universally garden-mad and raised to be familiar with small-scale agriculture centered on a quarter-acre behind the house or in a public plot (an allotment). Some of you who have read more than a few of my posts will know that Jackie’s father has always been an enthusiastic horticulturalist whose big garden yields everything from fennel to rhubarb to elderflowers. Granted, when he bought the house, back in the 1950s in a then-new suburban development, he picked the one with the largest garden, but all the houses in his neighborhood sit on pretty substantial parcels of arable land.  

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Posted in Farming

Leftover Dueling Pork

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By Edward Schneider

When we had our dueling pork meal, even with eight people around the table there were leftovers, of course. The first round I mentioned in the post, but there were plenty more. So one evening Jackie and I had patties, or kotlety, or rissoles – or, as my mother used to call them, coquettes (how racy, had she but known). To make them, I chopped up the rest of the Ibérico pork and some of the Flying Pigs roast, mixed it with cooked (and cooled) onion, eggs, breadcrumbs and chopped dill, formed patties, breaded them and got them crisp and hot in clarified butter. Mushroom sauce (sautéed mushrooms, milk and cream, pureed then finished with lemon juice) on the side. They were deliciously porky. 

But wait, there were still more leftovers. And these became a stuffing for not-entirely-classic tortellini. The traditional Emilia-Romagna filling is made of some variation on cooked pork and capon or turkey, prosciutto, mortadella and parmesan, seasoned with nutmeg. It is quite a dry mixture, which makes it easy to form and keep the tortellini. For my variation, I used the remaining Flying Pigs roast pork loin (including all its fat), a chunk of prosciutto and some parmesan, all run through the food processor along with a little rosemary, and seasoned with ground fennel seed and black pepper. These flavors echoed the original seasoning of the roast; there was no point in fighting flavors that were already there in the name of some notion of authenticity that was already out the window.  

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Posted in Italian

Dueling Pigs

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by Edward Schneider

Jackie and I started buying pork from Flying Pigs Farm at the Union Square farmers’ market years ago, but we keep ordering pig meat in restaurants that claim that theirs is somehow special. And we keep being disappointed: other pork rarely has as much flavor as Jen and Mike’s – Jen Small and Mike Yezzi being the farmers. Rarely, but not never: We were impressed a while ago with a Mangalitsa loin (see Mark’s account of a similar roast) and thought it might be fun to cook one of those simultaneously with Jen and Mike’s and see which was more popular among our guests. 

Well, the distributor was fresh out of Mangalitsa, but had just received something that sounded interesting: small (one-and-a-third-pound) roasts cut from the shoulder of Ibérico pigs, the black ones that are known mainly for the exquisite hams their legs get turned into. I ordered two, one of them destined for the freezer.  

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Posted in American

Ravioli Del Plin

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by Edward Schneider

Could filled pasta be the best thing in the world? No: there’s music that has it beat, and some would argue that Leonardo’s Ginevra de’Benci is better than pierogi. But come dinnertime, I’ll take cappelletti over Mozart almost any day. 

Jackie and I always yearn for filled pasta, and we sometimes take the time to make it ourselves. A little while ago, during our dill craze, we made some big ol’ tortelloni with this filling: a leek and a bunch of Swiss chard thoroughly cooked in olive oil, squeezed dry and finely chopped; a cup of fluffy, dry ricotta from Tonjes at the Union Square Greenmarket; a great deal of chopped dill; grated long-aged parmesan; one egg yolk; and salt and pepper. There was filling left over, and we froze it in a disposable plastic piping bag so that it would be ready for use. 

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Posted in Italian

Call it Pasta, Potatoes, and Chorizo

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by Edward Schneider 

I’m not entirely sure what Jackie and I had for dinner on Friday night. I am sure that it was delicious, felt great in the mouth and was fun to eat (with a spoon – the best tool), and I’m pretty certain about what it was not: it wasn’t pasta cooked like a risotto, because I didn’t gradually add liquid and keep stirring; it wasn’t fideuà (the paella-like noodle dish of Catalunya), because I didn’t brown the pasta or use a sofrito or leave the pan uncovered. It was … well, let me tell you how I made it, and you can tell me what it was. 

It came together as I was cooking, and it started with a yen for pasta. In the house was a farmers’ market treasure: small, firm new-season potatoes. There are Ligurian dishes of pasta and potatoes, often with green beans and pesto, and these are delicious, but I didn’t feel like making pesto (even in a food processor, which is really the most sensible way to do it) and, anyway, there were no beans. There were juicy new onions, though, and little Spanish chorizos – the ounce-and-a-half ones that come four to a vacuum-sealed pack – and parsley and a bit of chicken stock. And of course many shapes of pasta from the drawer that Jackie refers to as our pastateca. Oh – and half a cup of pan gravy from a roast chicken. 

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Posted in Italian, Mexican

A Simple Supper: Artichokes and Potatoes

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by Edward Schneider

Am I wrong to think that only a handful of farmers who come to Manhattan Greenmarkets grow artichokes? I’ve seen them only at Maxwell’s stand, but surely there must be other growers too, no? 

Whatever the case, that’s where Jackie bought some lovely little ones last week, along with a bag of nice dense new-season potatoes, a bunch of thyme and some juicy onions. Her shopping bag contained our entire dinner, apart from the salt, pepper, olive oil and smoked prosciutto (speck). With the oven pre-heating to 375 degrees, we first cut off the tops of the artichokes, stripped them down to the pale, tender inner leaves and pared the stems (dipping them and holding them in lemon-juiced water as we worked). Then we par-steamed the potatoes – just for four or five minutes to give them a head start – sliced some speck and cut an onion into wedges. All of this, we tossed with olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper in a baking dish and roasted until the artichoke hearts and potatoes were tender and lightly browned. 

Apart from the adventure of trimming the artichokes (see this: though ours were far smaller, the idea is the same), this was hardly cooking at all, and it made a hell of a dinner. Although the focus was on the vegetables, I have to say that the crisp roasted speck was irresistible; we’ll use twice as much next time. Maybe three times as much.

Posted in American, Recipes

Early Birds Abroad

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By Edward Schneider

A perennial problem for visitors to Spain is the dining timetable. Many Spaniards have their main meal at lunchtime, eventually going back to work and staying there until well into the evening. Only then do they start to think about going out for a stroll, a drink, another stroll and something more to eat. But if my wife and I were to have a full-blown sit-down lunch, we’d be useless for the rest of the afternoon and would miss a precious half day of sightseeing. So going native is not for us.

Before a brief trip to Córdoba, our first, we asked friends for dining ideas that were a little off the beaten track – that might take us out of the ancient center of the city into neighborhoods that most tourists don’t see. The one that particularly struck our fancy was about a twenty-minute walk east of our hotel (the dreamy Palacio del Bailío, which for a September stay, for example, can be booked on hotels.com for $233 a night). Continue reading

Posted in Travel

Scraped, not Peeled

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By Edward Schneider  

I used to take the Elizabeth David-era recipe instruction “Scrape your carrots” as a quaintness dating from before the invention of the vegetable peeler. 

Then, a decade or so ago, I was introduced to the tiny, flavorful early carrots sold by Manhattan farmers’ market vendors such as Paffenroth Vegetable Gardens, of Orange County, New York (not for a moment to be confounded with the fraudulent “baby carrots” carved out of superannuated storage roots and sold in supermarkets). Taking a peeler to these would leave you with a matchstick, albeit a delicious one. So Jackie and I – mainly Jackie, who is more patient with these painstaking tasks – have adopted the old practice of using a paring knife to scrape off the root hairs and a bit of the outer surface, at least for these early summer treats.  

We had dinner guests the other night and served them such carrots, meticulously processed by Jackie, and you know what? They noticed.

Posted in Produce