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The MataBlog is edited by Matador Records’ co-moaner Gerard Cosloy and individual entries are the work of whoever’s name is next to them. If you enjoyed something in the MataBlog, thank you very much! If there was something you found particularly troubling, please be advised that a) maybe you should read it again and b) the contents of this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions of Matador Records, Beggars Group, the combined staff of either company, nor the Matador artist roster. Opinions are like friends — hardly anyone has one worth listening to.

Ayocote Morado beans

Attention! Please budget two days to cook these beans. They need a lot of time and care - but trust me, it's worth it. This recipe is U.V. (Unintentionally Vegan).

Ayocote-Morado-1

IMG_2679

Originally from Oaxaca, the big, meaty ayocote morado was one of the first cultivated crops of the New World. Get yours from a reliably fresh source such as Rancho Gordo.

THE DAY BEFORE: Soak 1 cup beans in 1 quart water with 1 tbs kosher or sea salt, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp whole black peppercorns.

THE DAY OF, ABOUT 6-7 HOURS BEFORE YOU EAT:

neutral oil such as grapeseed
1/4 white onion, chopped
1/4 yellow onion, chopped
1 hot Italian-style cherry pepper, chopped, divided
2/3 medium-hot Italian style long (not bell) pepper, chopped
2 chiles de arbol, microwaved for 30 seconds, ground, divided
Greek oregano
1 1/2 tbs good tomato paste
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Saute all the onion in 1 tbs grapeseed oil till soft and starting to brown. Add 1/2 of the hot cherry pepper and all the Italian pepper and continue sauteing until cooked and aromatic. Add beans, their soaking water, plus enough extra water to cover beans by at least 2 inches. Add 1/2 the ground chiles de arbol, about 1 tsp salt, a good shake of oregano, stir well and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer 4-5 hours*. Keep a kettle of hot water ready to add extra water if necessary - the tips of the beans should remain submerged, but at the same time you want the liquid to reduce and get thicker, so don't dilute too much. During the process you will be monitoring the level of liquid, the doneness of the beans and the simmer rate (which should be more than "the occasional bubble" but should not be remotely close to boiling), so you will be spending a lot of time adjusting in the kitchen.

Toward the end, saute the rest of the cherry pepper in some oil, charring slightly if possible. Add with the tomato paste and the remainder of the ground chile de arbol. Taste for salt, correcting. Bring to a boil again and then simmer for at least another 30-45 minutes.

Taste to ensure the beans are creamy (not just starchy). Allow to sit at room temp for some time. Test again, and if starchy, bring to a boil again, with more water if necessary, and then simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Again allow to sit at room temp 30-45 minutes until perfect creaminess is attained.

Sauce should be rich, thick and brown. Serve over rice.

If reheating the next day: bring to a simmer slowly with a small splash of water. Refresh the beans with some more sauted chopped hot cherry pepper and about half of another roasted, ground chile de arbol. Repeat for every reheat. The beans will get better and better over the course of two weeks.

Note: Try to control the temptation to add extra ingredients. This is a bean with a huge personality of its own and you will want its flavor to dominate. Once you get this right, you will want more.

Serves 2.

* It can be difficult to keep the simmer going on the stove. If you can find the right temperature in your oven to keep it at a steady simmer (and this will take some checking, plus constantly opening and closing the oven door to check and occasionally add water will shift the temperature), you may get more consistent results, and in fact creamier beans - since the pot is warmed on all sides. In my oven, it works best at about 300-310F 425F and the lid half on.

Lamb chili

IMG_2636

I normally make Texas red chili with beef, but decided I wanted a change.

1. Chili paste:

- Selection of dried Mexican chiles. I used 30% anchos, 30% guajillos, 15% pasillas, 15% cascabel and 10% chiles de arbol
- Water

Dry-roast the chiles in the microwave in 15-second bursts until dry and fragrant, about 30 seconds for each batch of chiles. Remove seeds and pith, place into a saucepan, add water to cover, and bring to boil. Simmer until soft, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool, place in blender, and blend / pulse until smooth.

Chili paste will keep in refrigerator for several weeks, or in the freezer for up to a year.

2. Chili:

1 1/2 lbs lamb stew meat (shoulder or leg), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Salt
Grapeseed or other neutral oil
1/2 large white onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 sweet Italian sausages, removed from casing and crumbled
1 fresh hot red cherry pepper, finely chopped
1 bottle of pilsner
4 tbs chili paste (recipe above)
1 dried chile de arbol, roasted as above and finely ground
1 tbs ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
3 tbs tomato paste

Preheat oven to 310 degrees F.

Dry the lamb thoroughly with paper towels and salt it. Prepare the chopped vegetables.

Put one tablespoon oil in a cast-iron skillet. Soften the onion over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to saute for 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl and wipe pan clean.

Add another tablespoon oil and raise heat to high. When about to smoke, add the crumbled sausage meat. Brown thoroughly, mashing with a slotted spoon. Scrape it off and brown the other side, which will go faster. Lift it out with the slotted spoon and add it to the bowl with the onions and garlic.

Add another tablespoon oil (or less if there is enough rendered fat from the sausage), and when it is close to smoking, start browning the lamb in batches. The meat must has plenty of room to brown. Allow a deep brown crust to form before turning, about 3-4 minutes. Second side will go faster. Don't worry about browning the meat all over - a little pink showing is good. You will probably have to add a little more oil before each batch. You will probably have 6 batches of lamb. Remove each batch to the onion bowl with a slotted spoon before adding the next one. There should be plenty of sausage and lamb stuck to the bottom of the pan by the end of this process.

Add the chopped hot cherry pepper and saute, stirring constantly, until fragrant and soft - 1-2 minutes.

Add about half the beer and bring to a boil, scraping and stirring the stuck pieces with a wooden paddle or your spoon. Reduce and pour into the bowl of other ingredients. Repeat (you might not end up using the entire beer).

Put the contents of the bowl into a dutch oven and add the chili paste, the chile de arbol, the ground cumin, a generous grind of black pepper, and the tomato paste. Add water to cover and mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil over high heat, and as soon as it is boiling, place it in the preheated oven with the lid on halfway.

Cook for 1 hour, checking periodically that it is simmering but not boiling. Adjust temperature if necessary.

Taste, adjusting for salt. Cook for another 20 minutes. If meat is not tender, cook for longer.

Braised goat shoulder

goat

I had some pasture-raised goat from a small farm in Maine and decided to improvise this recipe, with a couple hints from online sources. It's as tasty as the photo suggests.

3 lbs bone-in goat shoulder, whole
kosher or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 small carrots - 3 diced, 3 cut into 2-inch chunks
1 yellow onion - half chopped, half cut into thirds
3 tbs olive oil
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup veal demiglace
1 1/2 tsp allspice berries, pulverized in a mortar
1 tbs juniper berries, whole
fresh thyme - a teaspoon or two of leaves and a few whole sprigs
a pinch of smoked paprika or pimentón de la vera
more salt and pepper

Ensure that you have an ovenproof pot capable of holding the whole shoulder. An enameled Le Creuset-type pot works well for the purpose.

Preheat your oven to 250F. If you have an oven thermometer, use it to check the heat since ovens are frequently off or variable at this low temperature.

Salt the shoulder generously all over and grind fresh pepper over it.

Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat until warm. Saute the onions and carrots until translucent. Remove from pot with slotted spoon.

Increase heat to high and brown pork shoulder all over, holding with tongs if there are sides that won't sit on their own.

Remove pork and deglaze pot with wine, scraping up all the brown bits with your spoon. Reduce heat to medium-high, add demiglace and stir into the juices until it more or less melts into them. Now put the cooked onions and carrots back in, along with all the other ingredients except the pork, and stir well. Add the pork with the meaty side down (bony side up - press it to test which is which), and cover with water (it's fine if parts of it stick out). Add some more salt and freshly ground pepper and stir well. Increase heat to high and bring to a _near_ boil.

Place in oven with the lid ajar (important!), and cook for 3-4 hours. KEEP THAT LID AJAR! Check occasionally to ensure that the liquid is simmering, not inert and not boiling. You may turn the meat occasionally if you wish, but keep in mind that opening the oven lowers the temperature each time. Most likely the goat will take 4 hours to become tender.

Remove from oven. The meat should be easily pulled from the bone with a fork. If not, cook longer.

Remove pork from pot and cover with foil. Strain sauce, reserving carrots, onions and juniper berries. Bring sauce to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, and reduce to about 3/4 cup to a cup max. It should be rich, dark and glossy.

Shred meat, leaving some on the bones for the gnawers, and serve with reserved vegetables plus the sauce in a gravy boat - or just pour it over the goat.

Slow cooked beans with bacon, sautéd mushrooms



The beans are negro de arbol from Rancho Gordo's Xoxoc Project, soaked overnight in plenty of salted water. The bacon is Applewood from North Country Smokehouse.



Method is simple. I started with a sofrito of roasted peeled chopped poblanos and garlic in the bacon fat, and proceeded to slow-cook the beans in the sofrito with a minimal amount of the soaking liquid, for several hours in a 275F oven.



Plus sliced hen-of-the-woods, sautéd in butter.

Some September dishes

It's October but you should still be able to make any of these, and they will be seasonally appropriate, if you're in the northern hemisphere that is. I'll note that - purely by chance, Naomi - all the recipes happen to be vegetarian. [Edit: That is, if you consider pancetta vegetarian.]



Tagliatelle burro pancetta e salvia (tagliatelle with noisette butter, pancetta and fresh sage):

4 oz. good quality egg tagliatelle
1/4 lb. pancetta, cut into small dice
handful of fresh sage leaves, some torn in half
2 tbs cultured butter
salt
reggiano parmigiano

Bring well-salted water to the boil. The tagliatelle will only take about 3 minutes to almost cook, so once boiling start on the sauce. Melt butter with pancetta in a pan over medium-low heat, and once pancetta is cooked (not dried out), add whole sage leaves to wilt - the butter should be foaming and browning but not burning. Pick the almost-cooked tagliatelle out of the water with tongs - do not drain the pasta pot - and add it to the butter sauce, along with a tablespoon or so of the pasta cooking water, and toss to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Garnish with torn sage leaves. Serve with lots of reggiano to grate over. Recipe via Franci. Serves 2.

Tomato salad:



It's tomato season (or the very tail-end of it), so get good ones. Slice them in half, arrange on plate with cut sides facing up, and salt well with good quality sea salt (like Maldon). Allow to sit for 30-45 minutes. Grind fresh black pepper over the tomatoes, garnish with torn basil leaves, and drizzle olive oil over it. Serve with bread.

Tuscan yellow-eye beans with Hatch chiles:



Source good dried yellow-eye beans from a supplier such as Rancho Gordo or Purcell Mountain Farms.

3/4 cup yellow-eye beans, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water with 1 tbs salt
1-2 fresh Hatch chiles if you're lucky enough to find them (NOW!)
or 1/4 cup roasted peeled chopped Hatch chiles, frozen or canned
1 decent plum or heirloom tomato - it should have aroma - unpeeled
3-4 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
handful of fresh sage leaves
4-5 tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt

Preheat oven to 250F.

If you are using fresh Hatch chiles, roast them over a grill or a gas flame until skin is thoroughly charred and blistered, place in sealed ziplok bag for 10 minutes, then peel and discard skin (do not wash chiles or run water over them). Chop chiles into 1/4" pieces or smaller. If using frozen or canned, defrost and chop.

Drain the beans but reserve the cooking liquid. Put beans into an earthenware bean pot, or if you don't have one, a heavy cooking vessel such as a Dutch oven. Cover beans with cooking liquid to one inch, and add the whole unpeeled garlic cloves, sage leaves, chopped Hatch chiles, and (carefully) the whole unpeeled tomato, stir to mix, and gradually bring to a boil over medium heat. Make sure not to burst the tomato - the acidic juice will extend the cooking time of the beans!

Add another teaspoon salt, cover your cooking vessel, and put in preheated oven. Cook slowly, checking every 30-40 minutes, until beans are done to your taste. Depending on the age of the beans, this could be anywhere from 1-2 hours. When done, if necessary drain the beans, reserving the broth, and boil down the broth until concentrated, and re-add to beans. Allow beans and broth to sit at room temperature in cooking vessel for 15-30 minutes. Adjust salt and add pepper. Serve with bread or rice. This will be even better the next day. Serves 2-4.

Sautéd zucchini:



1-2 zucchini, sliced into fine coins
Salt
Cultured butter

About 1-2 hours before dining, spread zucchini coins on a plate and sprinkle them with 1-2 tsp sea salt. Allow to sit. About 10 minutes before serving, drain zucchini (which will have thrown off some liquid), rinse, and thoroughly dry with paper towels. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini in one layer. Cook 1-2 minutes and turn, seasoning with freshly ground pepper. Turn again, season other side, check for salt, and serve.

Pasta with cherry tomatoes, two ways



Fresh cherry tomatoes are still good so it's a fine time to use them in pasta. Here are two preparations that look similar in photographs but could not taste more different.

The first is spaghetti con i pomodorini from Franci on eGullet. This is a fresh and buoyant preparation. Here's how I did it:

1 lb cherry tomatoes (get good ones if possible)
sea salt
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 habanero, de-seeded and pitched, finely minced
1/2 lb pasta
fresh sage leaves

Bring large pot of salted water to the boil and add pasta. Set timer to 1-2 minutes short of recommended pasta cooking time.

Slice the tomatoes in half and salt them generously. Heat olive oil, add garlic and habanero, and when you can smell the garlic, add the tomatoes, cut side down, and turn heat up to medium or medium high so that they start to wilt and caramelize on the bottom. Do not move the tomatoes.

When pasta is just short of al dente, lift it out of the pot with tongs (do not drain it) and add it to the tomatoes. Cook quickly until pasta is done, adjusting seasoning to taste. Serve with torn sage leaves and without cheese. Plenty of fresh-ground black pepper should be available on the table.



Ruth Rogers present a characteristically more rib-sticking version of this dish in the River Cafe Cookbook:

2 lbs cherry tomatoes
sea salt
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
6 tbs European butter
1/4 nutmeg, freshly grated
big handful of fresh basil leaves
1 cup grated pecorino, plus extra for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and start cooking the pasta.

Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze out and discard all the juice and seeds. Salt the open halves of the tomatoes. Melt HALF the butter in a skillet and then add the garlic. When the garlic is very lightly browned, add the tomatoes, cut side down, with another 1/2 tsp salt or to taste. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes, pressing the tomatoes down with a wooden spoon so that they disintegrate and become saucy, and stirring frequently. Add the nutmeg and simmer another 4 minutes. Add the basil leaves and stir, and remove from heat.

When pasta is about 1-2 minutes from al dente, remove a ladle of pasta water and reserve. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add the remaining 3 tbs of butter and the grated pecorino and stir well to combine. Add the tomatoes and toss to combine, adding a little of the pasta water.

Serve with extra torn basil leaves on top, along with fresh pecorino romano for grating and black pepper at the table.

Some recent dishes





Jamaican lamb curry with rice and peas



Jamaican lamb curry with rice and peas.

Both recipes are from Simply Recipes. My butcher was out of goat so I substituted lamb shoulder on the bone - I had him saw it into chunks. I followed the curry recipe fairly faithfully, simply increasing the number of habaneros to 3. For Jamaican curry powder, which is made from roasted whole spices and includes allspice, mustard seed and anise in addition to the more usual Indian ingredients, I followed this recipe. My coconut milk was Aroy-D.



I'm not a huge fan of kidney beans, and I've read that pigeon peas are used in Jamaica, so for the rice and peas I used Sea Island Red Peas from Anson Mills. I wouldn't pay too much attention to the hysteria surrounding the single whole habanero in the recipe linked above, but do make sure you have an extremely large pot - the peas and rice will expand enormously.



For extra heat I served homemade Inner Beauty hot sauce, using Chris Schlesinger's own recipe. It's one of the best food things ever to come out of Boston.

Eat with Dark & Stormys, Red Stripe or whatever else slakes your thirst.

Two simple summer dishes





Heirloom tomato salad and pasta with lemon sauce. These are all about getting the best ingredients.

Tomatoes: get tasty, juicy and ripe ones. They're only available at this time of year and you should be able to smell the tomato scent wafting off the fruit. Slice, arrange and sprinkle with coarse sea salt at least 30 minutes before serving. When ready to eat, grind fresh pepper over them, garnish with torn basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Pasta: finely grate 7 ounces of pecorino romano. Zest and juice 2 lemons. Gradually stir the zest-juice combination into the cheese until consistency is thick. Add olive oil and mix to create a creamy sauce. Meanwhile, you have brought a large pot of well-salted water to the boil. Cook pasta until al dente - vermicelli is shown - and reserve 2 tbs of the cooking liquid. Drain pasta, return to pot, and stir in the sauce, making sure that every strand of pasta is fully coated. Add cooking liquid to loosen, toss again, add roughly torn basil and serve with extra Romano. (Adapted from Ruth Rogers, the River Cafe Cookbook.)

Spaghetti with dark-simmered sausage and onion



This is really a winter dish from Ruth Rogers but I adapted it a bit for the summer.

Very straightforward, but do leave a lot of time - this is really a 2-hour preparation.

olive oil
3 Italian sweet sausage (get good ones), skins removed, sausage meat crumbled
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves purple garlic, minced
1 dried red chile, crumbled
3 dried Turkish bay leaves
1/3 cup red wine
14-15 oz can good Italian tomatoes, fully drained, tomatoes crushed in your hands
1/4 nutmeg, grated
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup romano pecorino, freshly grated
salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh sage leaves
1/2 lb dry spaghetti

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the crumbled sausage meat and stir and fry until lightly browned. If it sticks, great. Now add the onion, garlic, chiles and bay leaves and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes until onions are lightly browned, stirring frequently. You will be developing a fond and there will be stickiness - it's all good.

Pour in the wine and stir, scraping up the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the wine has evaporated - about 2 minutes maximum. Add the drained crushed tomatoes, lower the heat, and cook at a steady but low simmer for 45-60 minutes until you have an intense dark red mess. Stir in the nutmeg, milk, and Romano pecorino. Season with salt to taste.

Meanwhile, you have brought an extremely large pot of water to the boil. When you anticipate that you are approximately 10 minutes out on the sauce (the sauce can wait, so that part doesn't matter), add several massive handfuls of kosher salt to the water, cover, and bring to a rolling boil again. Now add the pasta all at once, stir, cover, and set the timer to a minute or so less than the minimum time specified on the pasta box. Once at a rolling boil again, remove cover, stir the pasta, and keep stirring occasionally until timer goes off. About 1 minute before the timer goes off, add a half-ladle of starchy pasta water to the sauce, and stir it in - you want to evaporate it so that the sauce is not watery, but you also want a certain amount of pasta starchiness so that the sauce combines well. You might end up adding a half-ladle full of pasta water a second time, and evaporate that too. Play it by ear.

Taste the pasta - it should be not quite al dente but not quite inedible either. Drain it in a colander and add it to the sauce pan. Toss, drizzling some more olive oil over the mixture, and continue tossing until pasta and sauce are well combined.

Serve into bowls, tear fresh sage leaves over each one. Add a fresh grind of pepper to each bowl and a fresh grating of Romano, and offer your guests the pepper grinder and more cheese to grate at the table.

A simple summer meal



Two courses - I'm actually going to provide recipes this time. Salad of mixed lettuces, followed by habanero-marinated chicken thighs with parsleyed rice.

Salad of mixed lettuces:

- lettuces of your choice - here are romaine and butter lettuces
- cinnamon basil leaves - torn by hand
- fresh sage leaves
- fresh hyssop leaves

Wash and dry the lettuce and tear into bite-size chunks. Add the fresh herbs. Mix well with your hands. Make a vinaigrette by pounding a medium-sized garlic clove with a pinch of coarse salt and a grinding of fresh pepper until it is mush. Add red wine vinegar (not balsamic) and mix well. Add an equal or lesser amount of olive oil, mix well, pour on salad and toss well, serve.



Chicken thighs marinated with habanero:

- 4 good chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 Western shallot or 2 Asian shallots
- 1 fresh habanero (Scotch bonnet) chile, or more to taste
- 1 large garlic clove
- 3 tsp ghee
- 1/3 cup vermouth

Crumble the Mexican oregano into the salt in a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Finely chop the shallot, and mince the habanero and the garlic. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the chicken thighs (do not rinse or dry them), and mix thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients so that the marinade covers every surface of the chicken.

(Wash your hands thoroughly after this.)

Cover bowl and place in fridge for 3 hours, removing and turning the thighs once during that time. Remove from fridge, transfer to a room-temperature bowl, and rest at room temp for about 30 minutes.

Using your hands, remove as much of the marinade as possible from the chicken - as many of the pieces of shallot, garlic and habanero as you can squeeze off - and reserve. Now pat the chicken dry thoroughly on both sides and rest on a plate.

Heat the ghee over medium heat in a heavy pot with a lid such as Le Creuset dutch oven. Add the shallot-garlic-habanero mixture and saute until shallots are soft, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the mixture and reserve, saving the oil (the easiest way to do this may be to pour the hot oil and shallot mixture through a sieve into a bowl). Pour the oil back into the pan.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the four chicken thighs. Saute for about 4 minutes on each side or until thoroughly browned. Do not worry is the skin sticks to the bottom of the pan.

Return the shallot mixture to the pan, reduce heat to lowest possible setting, cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the thighs measure about 160F with a probe thermometer.

(Wash your hands again thoroughly after this - you've been handling raw habanero.)

Remove the thighs, pour off the fat, saving as much of the shallots as you can - put those on top of the chicken. Return the pot, which should have ample pieces of caramelized meat and herbs sticking to the bottom of it, to a high flame. When hot, add the vermouth and deglaze, stirring and scraping to dislodge as much of the fond as possible. Just before the vermouth has fully evaporated, pour the contents of the pan over the chicken.

Parsleyed rice (start this about 20 minutes before chicken will be ready):

- 2/3 cup carolina or similar long-grain rice
- 1 1/3 cup water
- generous pinch of salt
- about 3-4 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Combine rice, water and salt in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Stir well with wooden spoon or paddle. Bring to a boil, stir again with wooden spoon, and cover with lid (place aluminum foil between pot and lid for extra tight seal if necessary), reduce heat to minimum, and cook for 12 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit, covered and undisturbed, for another 2 minutes. Remove lid, add parsley, and fluff well with wooden spoon to aerate rice and mix in the parsley.

Serve rice and chicken on same plate with ample amounts of drippings and shallot mixture, as well as lemon wedges and freshly ground pepper

Sea Island red peas and rice

Sea Island red peas and rice

Sea Island red peas. Soaked overnight and drained. Then simmered an equal mixture of ham stock and chicken stock, added the drained beans along with onion, celery, garlic clove, bay leaf, a pork neck bone and some homemade Jamaican curry powder. Back to a simmer, then into a 250F oven for about 2 hours. Removed, seasoned with salt and about half a finely chopped habanero, returned to oven for 20-30 minutes. Blended a portion of peas and liquid and returned to pot. Removed and discarded vegetables and aromatics. Added sliced serrano ham and freshly minced habanero. Served on buttered carolina rice.

It's hard to overemphasize the depth and complexity of this dish - earthy but with the subtlety of bitter chocolate and the aroma of juniper. That only scrapes the surface actually. Anson Mills does it again, or maybe I'm still just learning about the intensity & levels of flavor of legumes. Please try it.

Roasted pepper salad



Take whole bell peppers, as many different colors as you like, and put them on a grill or under the broiler, turning with tongs until the skin blisters and blackens all over. About 2 minutes per side - some peppers have many sides, some have four.

Seal the blistered peppers in ziplok bags for 10 minutes. Remove and peel with your hands - the skin should come off easily. Do NOT rinse or wash the outside of the peppers as you peel them: they will lose flavor. When you have gotten as much of the skin off as possible - it does not need to be all of it - place a sieve or colander above a bowl and carefully split them open with your hands and seed them, as well as removing any pith. Let the juices collect in the bowl underneath - they are wonderfully delicious and a crucial part of the dish - and reserve.

Slice the peppers into slivers as shown in the photo above, and arrange them on romaine lettuce. Crush a garlic clove in a mortar and pestle with some coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the reserved pepper juice and some good wine vinegar and mix. Add olive oil to taste and whisk together.

Arrange good anchovies (recommended: Ortiz a la antigua, shown above) atop the roasted pepper slices. Dress with the dressing. Sprinkle with fresh sage and hyssop.

Adapted from Richard Olney, The French Menu Cookbook.

A summer meal from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem



Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem is my kind of cookbook - documenting a food culture centered around a particular region and history, omitting all foams tweezers sous-viding and modernism, and including beautiful photography.

This meal was inspired by eGullet user Soba70's recent explorations of this book.

First I made filfel chuma (also known as pilpelshuma), a Libyan Jewish hot sauce. (May I point out that Ottolenghi's instruction to "soak the ancho chile in boiling water for 30 minutes" is very unclear - it could mean that you should pour boiling water over the chile and let it sit off the heat for 30 mins, or it could mean boil the chile for 30 minutes. It means the former.)

See here for Soba's step-by-step instructions. Taking a visual cue from him, I cut down the quantities of cayenne and sweet paprika by about half. I also left the caraway seeds whole and halved the quantity of garlic per his recommendation. It's a crazy-great sweet and bitter relish, somewhat like harissa, but drier:



I then made Palestinian fried tomatoes with garlic, again taking Soba's lead - cooking the crushed garlic cloves, and subbing filfel chuma for the fresh chile. I had to fry in batches with a fairly large skillet - you really need your largest sauté pan for this. Perfect summer dish, and I was even able to find worthy heirlooms at Eataly (since USGM is closed on Sundays):



Finally, the well-known chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom. This really is a perfect dish. I got it better this time than the first time - maybe better chicken, but also high-quality Ceylonese cinnamon from The Spice House, which I'm now certain is the right kind of cinnamon for this dish:

Meatballs "Il Casale"



These meatballs were prepared via a hard-to-find and fairly unusual recipe from Il Casale in Belmont, Massachusetts. I will post the recipe later - suffice it to say that they are the ur-meatballs.

Hoppin' John



As everyone knows, Hoppin' John is a Gullah dish that utilizes all sorts of delicious things. Namely salt pork, red peas (or black eyed peas or cow peas), and rice.

I started off by making my own salt pork. Previously I'd used the wet brine method, but I highly recommend using Aliya Leekong's dry rub method. Since her site is under renovation, I'll summarize it here:



2 lbs pork belly, skin removed (you can leave it on if you like)
3 cups coarse sea salt
2/3 cup light brown sugar (I used white sugar since my brown sugar is hard as a rock)
3 tsp black peppercorns, whole
2 tsp whole coriander
2 garlic cloves, smashed slightly

Rinse pork belly and pat dry with paper towels. Place in non-reactive dish. Combine dry ingredients thoroughly, and use some to coat the pork on all sides. (Rub the whole spices in hard. You want them embedded.) Reserve remainder of dry rub. Place plastic wrap on top of pork in dish, and then weights on top of the plastic wrap, pushing down on the pork (cans of beans are good for this, or canned tomatoes, or whatever you have). Refrigerate for 5 days, removing every 24 hours, tossing any liquid thrown off by the pork, and rubbing with a new measure of dry rub. At the end, rinse off dry rub and wrap pork in cheesecloth. It will keep in fridge for "one month" (i.e. forever, why do you think they salted pork in the first place).

The Lithuanians slice salt pork extremely thin and eat it on dark dense sour black bread spread with butter. The Ukrainians and Belorussians are said to drive for 6 hours or more to taste this delicacy.



On to the Hoppin' John. I used Anson Mills red peas that had been languishing in my freezer. Soaked overnight, then cooked in their cooking liquid. The Anson Mills recipes are way too fussy for my taste and use far too many ingredients, so I turned to the always trusty John Thorne for a recipe.



1 cup red peas, black-eyed peas or cowpeas, soaked overnight in plenty of water and some salt
1 small chunk salt pork, sliced thin and blanched in boiling water for 10 secs (or skip that if you like salt like I do)
1 onion chopped
1 cup raw rice (Carolina please)
1+ hot chile, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1+ bay leaf
minced fresh parsley
a little thyme
salt & pepper

Boil 5 cups water (ideally the soaking water from the beans, with more added if necessary), add beans ("peas") with bay leaf and simmer for 45 minutes until the beans are soft enough to crush against the roof of your mouth, but not mushy.

Meanwhile, render salt pork in frying pan until crispy. Remove the crispy pork and reserve. Fry onion in the rendered fat (add 1-2 tbs butter if pork hasn't thrown off enough fat) until translucent.

When beans are ready, eyeball the remaining liquid. There should be about 2 1/2 cups in there. If not, add water till you think it's at the right level. Then add salt pork, onions, uncooked rice and all the other seasonings. Bring to a very brief boil then simmer for 20 minutes uncovered. At the end, the liquid should be just about gone and the beans and rice almost or pretty much cooked/perfect. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve, with a little extra fresh parsley on top, hot sauce or freshly chopped chiles at the table, cornbread, bitter greens, salad.

Adapted from John Thorne, Serious Pig.

New Orleans red beans and rice

Recipe was adapted from John Thorne's Serious Pig, a must-buy for anyone interested in American regional cuisine, or just great food prose in general:



The classic recipe calls for a cracked ham bone with generous pieces of meat left on it, or alternatively New Orleans pickled pork, neither of which I had to hand. What I did have was copious quantities of ham stock in the freezer from my Christmas ham, as well as $2 worth of pork neck bones from Flushing's Chinatown (and two bucks buys you a lot of those there). Some chorizo or kielbasa was also recommended - all I could easily source was Goya chorizo. I stand by this shit. Cheap and good.

The beans were Rancho Gordo sangre de toro, part of their Xoxoc Project for working with indigenous farmers to preserve Mesoamerican bean varieties that are in danger of going extinct. These small, sumptuous red beans are far tastier than regular kidney beans, and closer to the small kidneys used in Louisiana. Also, most importantly, I had a bag of them.

So here's the recipe - pretty simple, just allow yourself a lot of time.

- 1 cup small dried red beans, soaked overnight, reserving the soaking water
- up to 1 quart ham stock
- 2 lbs pork neck bones
- 2 Goya chorizo sausages, cut into 1/8-1/4" discs
- 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 small, hot red chile seeded and minced
- 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, minced
- 3-4 scallions, finely minced, green and white parts, half of which reserve uncooked

Blanch the pork neck bones from a cold start, boiling 1-2 minutes, drain and set aside.



Put beans in a heavy pot, cover with 1 quart ham stock, filling out with reserved soaking liquid as need be, add some salt, bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes, reduce flame and simmer for at least 1 hour, adding more soaking liquid as necessary, until beans are tender.



Meanwhile, melt 2 tbs butter in a skillet or large pot over medium heat and cook onions, both bell peppers and celery until soft (6-8 minutes). Add garlic, scallions and parsley and saute for another 2 minutes. Add bay leaves and sausage and saute for another 2 minutes.



Add saute contents to bean pot with all other ingredients, salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind that the ham stock and chorizo will have some salt already), bring to a boil, and and cook from 1 1/2 to 4 hours at a bare simmer, adding more reserved bean liquid (or hot water if you run out) as necessary. As the beans and other ingredients really begin to soften, mash them up against the side of the pot and stir the pulp back into the main liquid to thicken it.



Make rice to taste towards the end of the cooking period and serve beans and its gravy on top of it. Scatter reserved uncooked minced scallions on top. Place on table with condiments to taste (suggested: hot sauce, chopped raw onions, chopped raw scallion, chiles in vinegar, or really whatever you like).



Inauthentic tagine of chicken with habaneros and black olives



It's getting cooler and darker here so I pulled out the unglazed tagine and improvised a highly unauthentic (i.e., non-Mediterranean) tagine of chicken with habaneros, cayenne peppers and olives.

Recipe:

I gently warmed a quarter-cup of olive oil in the tagine over a flame tamer on medium heat. Sauteed two cloves of minced garlic, one minced orange habanero and one minced medium-hot long Indian green chile until garlic changed color.

Added a mixture of 1 tsp each ground cumin, black pepper, sweet paprika, and 1/2 tsp each ground Ceylonese cinnamon and Indian medium-hot dried red chiles, and sauteed briefly.

Then added a couple tablespoons tomato paste and sauteed for a bit.

Added 3/4 cup hot water and 1/2 tsp salt, brought to a boil, added 3 chicken thighs and a big long green cayenne pepper, quartered the long way. Brought to a boil again, then covered simmered for one hour, turning chicken halfway, adding olives about 10 minutes before the end.

Removed thighs and crisped them in 450-degree oven. Meanwhile removed olives and peppers from sauce, boiled it down in a saucepan, degreased. Returned everything to tagine for another 10-minute simmer, followed by 5 minutes sitting off heat, covered.

Garnished with fresh flat parsley (more of a critical ingredient to this preparation than you might think).

I'd say it was a pretty unqualified success - I wish I'd had better olives and only added them at the end. And I think pimentón de la vera would have added a nice smokiness in place of, or in addition to, the sweet paprika. The interesting part is that the final result was not that spicy, even though that habanero packs a punch (and was supplemented by the other chiles) - the essential sour fruitiness of the habanero was there, but much of the sharp capsicum impact had dissipated somehow. Next time I'll use more.

Final point - it is remarkable how the unglazed tagine adds a flavor of its own. Of course this is the whole point of unglazed tagines - the seasoning - but I wonder whether sometimes I want the slow-cooking properties of earthenware without that particular flavor (which I can't quite pinpoint - some combination of the clay and all the dishes that have cooked in it previously). An excuse to buy a glazed tagine.

Gazpacho



I'd always thought that authentic gazpacho required blending that Mediterranean staple, stale bread, but not according to José Andrés. His incredibly simple, purist gazpacho calls for just tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, a garlic clove, sherry vinegar, olive oil and salt.

I added half a fresh jalapeno, helped out our still somewhat pallid NYC tomatoes with some San Marzano juice, and omitted his elaborate garnish, substituting a slice of avocado. I like some chunkiness & pulp, so didn't bother to strain. His tips for tasting at key steps are essential.

Brown and orange lentils (masoor dal)



A traditional Fourth of July dish, file this one under U.V. (unintentionally vegan). The recipe combines brown (whole) and orange (split polished) lentils and is pressure-cooked with curry leaves, cumin, coriander seed, black mustard seed, fenugreek seed, garlic, turmeric, tomatoes, chili powder, fresh cilantro and lemon juice. I used fresh grated turmeric instead of the powder.

It's easy to make without a pressure cooker too. (If you can't find curry leaves, substitute leaves from celery stalks.) The recipe comes from onelifetoeat.

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