Archive for salmon

feasts of love

Posted in delicious places, delicious stories, vague recipes with tags , , , , on June 26, 2009 by thatwasdelicious

Here are some just straight up good eating moments that have reminded my why I love this whole goddamn messy world.

Raw Oysters: See oystahs

Burrata and Toast: Burrata is an incredibly rich cow’s milk mozzarrella. To make burrata they first make a mozzarella skin (adding vinegar to create a whey and then doing other mysterious cheese-making things to it) and then they fill that mozzarrella skin with the creamy curds of cow’s milk. Burrata straight from Italy costs about 36.00/lb and is worth every penny. One morning at work Simon noticed that our last ball of burrata was going to expire that day. So he sliced a filone in half, sliced the burrata into thick rounds, laid the burrata on the bread, drizzled the cheese with olive oil and a little sugar and then toasted the whole thing. I poured out two cups of coffee and we stood burrata and toast one hand, coffee in the other, munching away at pure bliss on bread. Sweet yeasty toasted bread married the complexly rich flavors of the burrata and olive oil, the slight crunch of sugar crystals softened the bitterness of the coffee, and the warmth of the bread and the coolness of the cheese played off of one another. Ah, yes. Ah, yes.

Halibut and Stone Fruit Salsa: My boss Jaimie loves food. She says it is the only thing that makes sense to her all of the time. The last week that I was in California, she invited my mom and I up to her treehouse in the mountains for dinner. When we arrived there was white wine waiting and a fire under the grill. She prepared for us: grilled halibut with a stone fruit salsa and quinoa. The plates that she presented to us were beautiful: The plates themselves were a deep indigo color. The quinoa was piled beneath the startling white flesh of the grilled halibut. Her stone fruit salsa was a play of pinks, mauves, and purples over the white of the fish and the toasty brown of the grain. And she had grilled whole spring onions to add a flash of green to the spectacle. And the flavor. Mmmmmmm……. The quinoa had a toasty hint to it and offered a soft sweetness to balance out the spicy heat and acidic sweet tang of the salsa. The halibut was firm but also had a melt in your mouth sweetness to it. The spring onions tasted like the grill–in a good way, that smoky woody charredness– and a bite with all of these elements made me make entirely inappropriate noises of happiness and delight. The whole thing reminded me again why food is a total expereince and why the best food is one that plays over all of the senses. When I was finished, I promised myself that I would recreate that dinner for everyone I know and love.

Apricot Lavender Jelly: Apricots stolen from an old orchard, lavender grown outside a garden gate. Sent with me as a reminder of the West coast and to bring sunlight to my new home.

Rossini and Pickled Black Walnuts: Rossini is a blue cheese with a twist. When they are done making wine, the cheesemakers place the old grapeskins in with the aging cheese. This gives the cheese a little more of a wine taste and softens the edge of the blue. Pairing this cheese with pickled black walnuts makes even more flavors jump out of the cheese. The black walnuts add an earthy note to the tastes that ground the wine/grape flavors and pull out the umami like tastes of the cheese. Startling play time on the tongue.

Hot Fudge Sundaes and Manhattans: My boss’s boyfriend is British. He is also a good man and the two of them work really well together. They are going to get married and have babies and lots of dogs and feed the world really good food. My last day at AGF, Jaimie and David invited me out for drinks. We went to their favorite bar and they did all of the ordering. One drink turned to two and two devolved into three or four and a discussion of why Withnail and I might be the best movie put out by the Brits. At one point I got up to use the restroom. When I returned, Jaimie and David told me that they had ordered hot fudge sundaes and since these hot fudge sundaes did not come with cherries, three more Manhattans. Oh dear, I thought to myself, oh dear. The hot fudge sundaes and Manhattans arrived and my mouth dropped. The sundaes were in these huge mugs. The ice cream was topped with whipped cream and salted nuts. And the best part was that the hot fudge (which was thick, dark, bitter chocolate) came in its own gravy boat and you got to put it on your sundae–balancing hot and cold however you pleased. We ate the sundaes, we finished the drinks, and then put a cherry on top of it all. The next morning I truly felt like shit, but was it worth it? Of course.

Salmon with Shaved Fennel, Arugula, and White Bean Salad (+Hooters): My last weekend in California I took the train into San Fran to see Michelle. We agreed to meet at the Embarcadero and when I arrived I was thrilled to see the white tents of a farmer’s market set up along the pier. She and I walked through the stalls sampling whatever anyone offered to us and catching up on the past months of our lives. Having toured the entirety of the farmer’s market, we suddenly realized that we were hungry for real food. We found ourselves standing beside a tent that was filled with the smoky scent of grilling salmon. Someone walked past with a piece of beautiful pink salmon balanced on top of a pile of greens and topped with creme fraiche. We were sold. We both ordered fish (Michelle’s came with eggs and toast and mine came with a sharp and fresh arugual, fennel, white bean, and cherry tomato salad aka summer on a plate). We sat on the sunny pier balancing our plates on our knees and squinting into the sun. As we ate we watched the white sails of boats swing by under the bridge. The salmon was delicious, not cooked the whole way through and nicely salted. The perfect food to be eating in the salty wind. When we were finished, we fed our scraps to a dog who had been nosing around and who reminded us both of Luna, and then we cotinued walking into the wind and sun down the pier. About three hours later, we realized that we were hungry again. So we went to Hooters and had beer and wings and I had the pleasure of watching Michelle smoke a post-lunch cigarette, an experience that is a hallmark of so many meals we have had together and one that I love because I can almost feel how much she enjoys it. An action so quintessentially her. Then we continued walking until it was time to part ways, for now.

Ceviche and Carnitas: I wanted to do something for the men that I worked with before I left so I decided that I would make lunch. I knew that Simon loved shrimp so I asked him while were working what his favorite way to eat shrimp was. He told me that he loved ceviche. Ceviche? Now there was a dish I had never made or has any aspirations to making. But it was supposed to be a hot day and there is no time like the present for learning. So Friday morning, my last day of work, I headed to the seafood market. I bought tiny, sweet, shrimp and cucumbers, avocados, cilantro, and limes. When I arrived at work, everyone was in good spirits. The radio was blaring Mexican cowboy tunes and Simon was teasing the new boy Daniel about some girl. I headed straight into the kitchen and could feel the loose happiness of cooking in my joints. To make the ceviche I juiced the limes and mixed that with rice vinegar and some chili salsa that Daniel’s mother had made. Then I chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantrol, and cucumber and mixed it all together with the shrimp and the avocado. While I was preparing the ceviche Jaimie was busy making carnitas. Salted, rubbed with chili, and cooked in a hot skillet, carnitas are delicious with fresh cojita and tacos. We called to the boys, come eat. Then we all stood around the kitchen table plucking at the hot meat with our fingers and wrapping ceviche up in tacos plucked off the open flame of the stove. Not a Sunday breakfast, but it will do nicely….

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sundays at a.g. ferrari

Posted in delicious places, delicious stories, vague recipes with tags , , on March 29, 2009 by thatwasdelicious

It all started with the panettone.

A.G Ferrari’s is a classic Italian food emporium. It is owned by a man named Paul Ferrari, the grandson of the original owner, Annibale G. Ferrari. Annibale was sent to the United States at the height of WW I. Annibale’s father had lost one son to the war and was not about to see another son perish as well. Annibale sailed into New York and then made his way across the United States to California. When he arrived, he found himself surrounded by fellow Italians who longed for the food of their mothers and grandmothers. Annibale, being a very enterprising fellow, wrote a letter to his father and some months later crates of tinned tomatoes, cheeses, and wines, were coming into port and Annibale began the business that would become his legacy.

Paul Ferrari, ninety plus years later, it still looking for the food of old Italians. He takes yearly trips back to the northern mountains that Annibale hailed from and seeks out the cheese makers that tuck their cheeses in old monasteries’ crevaces to age, the estates of olives that are older than some of the ruins that peek out between the trees, and the artisans that still bake panettone at Christmas time and do it all by hand.

A.G. Ferrari still imports its food via the ocean. Crates of tins, bottles of wine, wheels of cheese, flanks of cattle, haunches of pig all come to sunny California after a long voyage across the Atlantic and then through the Panama Canal. The Port Authority has gotten more strict about inspecting our crates. I suppose it could be possible that we are smuggling cocaine into the country, but somehow, I doubt it. There was a panic in December when it seemed that the custom agents were deliberately going to be depriving our customers of their Christmas panettone but the panic passed and on Deecember 1st A.G. Ferrari’s windows were filled with the red packages of panettone.

Panettone is a traditional, Italian bread that is typically made and served during the Christmas season. The main ingredient in panettone is butter. The flour and sugar and yeast are mere afterthoughts, added in to keep the butter in a form that will keep for months and can be sliced into thick wedges. Some panettones also contain dried fruits and hints of cinnamon. Others are made with orange zest and fennel, but I have never had a version of panettone that is not delicious.

Because panettone is still fresh and arguably even more delicious up through the summer months, Paul Ferrari had ordered literally thousands of panettones for his stores. A fair number of these sold for the  holdiay season, but even when I started working there in mid-January, there was still a sizable pyramid of panettones in the window.

My first Sunday on the job I was a little nervous. I had cleared the initial hurdle of getting hired (second woman on a staff of all men) and had proven my worth by being to pick up on the subtlities of slicing prosciutto. But all that had been with the weekday crew and Sunday was a totally different combination of people and expectations. I was to open with a man named Michael.

“You’ll have fun,” Jaime told me as I left on Saturday. “Don’t pay too much attention to what he says.”

Okay…?

So Sunday morning I show up for work. I walk into the darkened store and there is Michael, lounging in the kitchen, open newspaper on the counter, and “Breakfast with the Beatles” playing very, very loudly on the radio.

“Hey, girl.” he said.

And I stuck out my hand for him to shake, said hi back, and then walked to the back to put on my apron and start the day. Michael is from Honduras but grew up in the States and spent his summers driving down through the state of California to Mexico and Honduras to spend time with his extensive family. He met his wife by hanging out in his future mother-in-law’s kitchen for hours at a time waiting to be fed and learning the ins and outs of Mexican cooking. One day, he and his wife are going to open a burrito shop in Mexico City because, believe it or not, there isn’t a good burrito to be found there. Michael slips in and out of nonsense (Spanish and English) and practical jokes and even though he works all week long as a gardener he never fails to come into work with more energy than most.

The first part of the morning at A.G Ferrari is spent getting the store ready. The loaves of bread are placed in their baskets, the prepared foods unwrapped and tucked into the deli case, the meat carefully tagged, salamis unwrapped, and cheese rearranged. I usually have the task of writing the specials on the chalk boards and at 9:30am we turn on the lights, turn the radio onto the CD of Italian music, tuck our white shirts into our black pants, cinch our orange aprons tight, and wait for the customers to arrive.

But on Sundays, they don’t. Well, that is to say that the customers, fully aware that Sundays are sacrosanct and should be spent lying in bed, do not arrive until well after noon. The first Sunday I worked, Michael and I sat on the counter and sipped coffee. My stomach started to rumble and the piles and piles of panettone were calling to me.

“Hey, can we make french toast?” I asked, only partly kidding.

“Out of what?”

“Those,” I said pointing to the piles of panettone wrapped up and sitting in the window.

“You know how?”

“Of course. But we need eggs,” I sighed, “I guess we can’t make any…”

But Michael had already pulled out his cell phone and was calling Johnny, our other co-worker who was due in at 10.

“Johnny, pick up some eggs, and some milk. Betty Crocker is going to make french toast.”

I didn’t even take offense to the Betty Crocker remark I was that excited about being able to have panettone french toast for breakfast . I slid off the counter and pulled out a large panettone from the pile and headed to the kitchen. “You had better call Johnny back and tell him we’ll need syrup too.”

And that was the beginning of the Sunday morning crew’s breakfasts. We have since had empanadas, tostadas, sopes (courtesy of Michael), pancakes, omlettes (courtesy of me), and one near heart attack (courtesy of Michael’s high cholesterol) but the crowning achievement came last Sunday when Johnny showed up with a three potatoes and wouldn’t let Michael or I into the kitchen for an hour.

Michael and I tried to keep ourselves from bursting into the kitchen, knowing that Johnny, if left to his own devices, was going to come up with something truly spectacular. And he did not disappoint. At 10:35 an unexpected customer arrived demanding 1 lb of salami and other sundries so Michael and I went off to help him and when we returned from ringing up the man’s purchases, Johnny stood by the kitchen doors waiting to proudly usher us into the kitchen to see what he had made.

The boy had turned the three potatoes into the most wonderful latkas that I have ever had. They were crisp and warm and he had topped them with smoked salmon, daikon sprouts, a marscapone and caper sauce, and some spicy pickled peppers to cut through all of the richness. The bright pink salmon stood out against the golden yellow of the potatoes and then the whole dish was sent soaring into the realms of spring by the fresh sparkle of green sprouts on white marscapone.

I stood there in awe. What a beautiful, beautiful breakfast.

The three of us stood in the kitchen, with one eye on the door praying that customers would not decide to roll out of bed early on this Sunday, eating slowly and carefully and savoring each impossibly delicious bite. Michael took a picture of his latka, I stood in the kitchen and made inappropriate noises, and Johnny–like all proud culinary creators– just smiled.

At one point, Michael returned to the land of the living to ask, “What would we do if Paul Ferrari walked in here right now…”

“We would feed him of course,” I laughed, “After all, isn’t this, this eating and cooking together, as Italian as you can get?”

Luckily, though, neither Paul nor any customers entered the store until we had all licked our plates clean, praised Johnny one more time, wiped the last of the marscapone cheese from the corners of our mouths, and licked the salty tang of salmon from our fingers.

I may have to work on Sundays, but as long as we keep making breakfast at A.G Ferrari I am okay with that.

Next week…catcus…..