Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cold weather food and where to find it


It is dark at 5 o'clock, and it is cold. Tonight there is a frost advisory, and late this afternoon I planted some more greens on the roof farm, just to see what would happen. The neglected spicy mesclun mix had taken off in the last weeks, and this was my first visit to the roof this month. The days of rooftop sunset picnics are long gone.

So we'll have mustard, brassicas and tender lettuce with supper. Supper is a cheese souffle. The souffle is because for some reason I bought six eggs two days in a row. Mind somewhere else.The problem with cheese souffle is even though it may have eight or so eggs in it and some cups of cheese, you still feel like you have eaten air for dinner. Fragrant perhaps, but still air.

That is why I am making some bread, too. Estorbo tells us that he has 24 hungry little Estorbos inside him who demand constantly and mewingly to be fed, and I suspect that the Frenchman has a hockey team inside him constantly demanding baked goods and dessert.  Ellen gave me some beautiful quinces some weeks ago and I have been admiring them in a bowl on the table, but tonight they will be sliced, cooked in syrup and eaten as said dessert. Rats. That's why I needed cream!


On with last week's cold weather cooking. I have fallen in love with the white and brown beech mushrooms sold at  Mr Lee's, aka Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable/Japanese Grocery, between Clinton and Court Street on Atlantic. They cost $2.99 a packet - cheaper than the others I've seen at Union Market and the Garden of Eden (where I may shop once year - I was looking for and found, Explorateur cheese - but it was as high as a kite and inedibly bitter, bah. Found a far fresher version at Pacific Gourmet on Court and Pacific. They are still selling Hudson Valley Honey Crisp apples at $1.99/lb. Get there while you can, they are the best apples ever).

So with the mushrooms I made a cacciatore type casserole (casseroles...what happened to them?) with whole chicken legs (Murrays, $2.99/lb at Union Market). And a loose and creamy polenta to go with them.


Another product - since we're talking about shopping and prices - that has me hooked, is the package of wonderfully thin crêpes made by The Crepe Team, which I've bought at both Union Market and Garden of Eden, for just under $5. We eat them over three or four meals, stuffed with various things, like a late afternoon snack dusted with sugar and cinnamon, or dulce de leche if you are a hockey-team-possessed Frenchman. Popped into a hot oven for few minutes and eaten quickly, folded over itself, hot, limp, chewed and swallowed and filling a hole you didn't know you had.


Or! A fabulous nest of crispy organic bacon (Applegate - no nitrates), grated Emmenthaler, and a very lightly  poached egg. Fold crêpes over four ways, very hot oven for less than five minutes, sliced, put in mouth, and you could swear you're in wintry Geneva, opposite the Cafe du Centre, near the flower sellers, holding a crêpe made in front of you, on the street, and swallowing running, warm egg yolk, melted cheese and a whisper of thin ham.

But you're not. You're in Brooklyn.


I suppose this is a version of fast food. My kind of fast food. If you're thinking about our insides, we've been grazing on mache (lamb's lettuce, or corn salad) and pea shoots, from love 'em/hate'em Trader Joes.


We drank what we never drink, a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, the first pressing of red grapes. We used to enjoy picnicking at Buitenverwachting in Constantia in April on their own super-local 'L'arrivée' day, and I bought it for old time's sake. It was quite palatable. Often they are not. Fresh, red, zingy and a nice foil for the fat-laden crepes.


What else?  Banana bread, which is more like cake, with macadamia nuts and sour cream folded in. Delicious with coffee, for breakfast.


Last night: bean supper. Not Terence Hill's beans, as I didn't have spare red wine for cooking. But I did have duck prosciutto and wanted to use a lot. Chop chop chop, sauteed the duck with some fat, an onion, garlic, carrots, a lot of tomato paste, some cocoa, ancho chiles, coriander, cinnamon, some sugar, salt, 20 peppercorns, to which is added the cooked beans (simmered in water with bay leaves). And some tablespoons of balsamic vinegar near the end.

You do not have to soak beans, by the way. It's a myth. Just cook them gently till tender, then add them to the flavourings and cook together for a long, long, looooong time. Keep topping up with stock or water.


Oh, and there's the bread again.  Warm hunks torn off and dipped into beans. Good. Honey crisps sliced into the pea shoot salad.

Thanksgiving. It will be a small one, with three double-barreled attendees: French-Canadian, South African-American and Dominican-American. There will be Thanksgiving cocktails, perhaps hot carrot and orange soup, possibly pig-in-a-mink, fluffy mustard sauce, and maple-roasted squash. Thinking about dessert.

How about an apple souffle?
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