Stephanie is on her way to France tonight, which means I am home alone, and I happened to cook myself a dinner that she would have appreciated, which made me miss her all the more.
Through some sort of clerical error, I received our biweekly CSA veggie box today, even though I’d asked that it be suspended while we’re away (I’ll be joining her in France next week). So after pawning off some surplus veggies on my coworkers, I brought home heirloom tomatoes, plums, and a whole bunch of peppers. The tomatoes sounded like dinner to me. At first I envisioned a classic insalata caprese, with bread to sop up the juices, mais bien sûr, but we’d had pizza the night before, and I’d had a sandwich for lunch, so I opted for couscous instead.
While a quarter cup of couscous was hydrating, I chopped two of the tomatoes, some of the copious basil we have growing in a pot, and a handful of marcona almonds seasoned with rosemary from the pantry. All this went into a bowl along with half a ball of fresh mozzarella that I’d picked up on the way home and diced, plus the juice of an old lemon that was laying around. I mixed in the cooked couscous, some salt, and a healthy glug-glug-glug of olive oil. The result was wonderful.
No, it’s not my QR code, but I thought it was an intriguing application of the technology.
Did we use it? No, we walked up to the counter like normal people. So what does the QR code encode? Good question: http://splitbread.com/1/16.html (location #1, table #16, I presume). For the record, I had a very tasty porchetta sandwich with cracklings and balsamic onion marmalade for dinner tonight. I’d definitely go back.
Build up a good pile of glowing red embers in the fire pit. If you’re lucky, you might be able to fuel the fire almost entirely with half-burned charcoal logs scavenged from nearby, unoccupied campsites. Put four handmade corn tortillas on the grill. We found ours, and the rest of the ingredients in this recipe, at Trader Joe’s. I’ve never much liked corn tortillas (except in chip form), but I’ve been developing a growing appreciation for them as of late, especially when they’re well cooked—the outside crisp and the inside soft (thank you La Taqueria). Flip them after a minute or two. You’re just trying to ensure that the thick tortilla gets cooked through—you don’t want to create a tostada. Now pile a healthy layer of grated cheese on two. We used a pepper jack blend, but really anything will do. We had some vine-ripened tomatoes with us, so I put a few slices on top of the cheese. Finally cover with the remaining two tortillas. Once the bottoms are getting brown and the cheese is melty, flip the quesadillas over and brown the other side. Remove from the grill and quarter. We only had a small swiss army knife with us—this was a messy affair. We also brought an avocado along, so we put a few slices on top of each quarter. But don’t omit the key ingredient: top with a healthy swirl of salsa verde (tomatillo salsa). If the quesadilla is swimming, you’re doing it right. There’s nothing quite like the combination of corn masa (in the form of tortillas or tamales) and the heady fruit of the tomatillo. Stephanie and I made these while camping at Lava Beds National Monument, and neither of us could help from exclaiming, with mouths open and full of food, how incredibly good they were.
I discovered that the lone celeriac in our fridge had developed a bad spot—but the rest was fine. I didn’t want to make another puree, so I looked in the pantry and found a bag of green lentils. Somehow the two connected in my mind (imagining the celeriac as a sort of giant, squat carrot) in the form of saucisses-lentilles. Which meant I was in need of some nice sausages, preferably Polish kielbasa. Our local neighborhood market, BiRite, tends to be a little thin in the cured-meats-that-are-bad-for-you category, but they did have a package of four nitr*te-free frankfurters from Let’s Be Frank, a local hot dog maker. Back at home, I diced and roasted the celeriac, I cooked the lentils in a little chicken stock and white wine, and I browned two of the franks in a pan, along with a bunch of kale that I couldn’t bare to pass up while I was at the store. I no longer see the leafy triumvirate of kale/chard/collards as inconvenient filler in our veggie box—I look forward to them. I have a hard time cooking a meal without something green. Preparing the lentils and sausages and celeriac alone, no matter how classic, just seemed wrong. I carried the kale home like a bouquet.
I was shocked to learn that a fire broke out at Chez Panisse yesterday (see also: SFGate, Berkeleyside), badly damaging the restaurant’s front porch and facade. Two weeks ago we ate there (for the first time) with Stephanie’s mom Chris, who was visiting from France. The restaurant is named after a character from a trilogy of French movies that the three of us had watched together. We were able to get a Saturday lunch reservation at the Café on short notice, which turned out to be a revelation—it was wonderful to emerge from our three-course meal into the broad daylight with a good part of the day still ahead. The food was impeccable, and it made for a fine conclusion to Chris’ stay.