Friday, November 29, 2013

Fettuccine in mushroom ragù with pistachios

Fettuccine in mushroom ragù with pistachios
I keep threatening to make a savory dish using shelled pistachios, and what I have in mind is something like a textured pistachio cream, maybe studded with ... something else? Over rice? Pasta? This is clearly still a work in progress.

In preparation for it, I recently shelled a good quantity of pistachios and have them stored in a tightly sealed glass jar. Tonight, in the mood to fashion an intense mushroom sauce for pasta, I decided to garnish it with some of the pistachios, and I'm happy to say it worked out very well.

It's still a mushroom sauce with pistachios, though, not a pistachio sauce, but never mind. It was good, and it went beautifully with a funky artisanal Loire delight, Puzelat-Bonhomme 2012 Touraine Pinot Noir. Here's how it came together:

Tis the season for wine books and more

De Long Wine Map of Italy.
I'm enjoying a quiet day at home today, savoring memories of yesterday's feasting and sharing thanks and gratitude with friends.  No mall for me! But I admit it ... I did go online and look for some good reading material about wine and other things.

Want to do some Black Friday work from home?  My 30 Second Wine Advisor column for this week features links to Steve and Deborah De Long's first-rate Wine Map of Italy, along with their other display-quality wine maps and their offbeat, intriguing Wine Grape Varietal Table.

You'll also find links to three serious recent books about Italian wine, and  my tasting report on Bersano 2010 "Costalunga" Barbera d'Asti, in this week's 30 Second Wine Advisor.

Quick link to buy De Long's Wine Map of Italy for $29.95.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The red and the black ... pepper, that is

Back around 1986 or thereabouts, when I had the very happy occasion of meeting Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme at his K Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen for an interview for the old Louisville Times, we got to spend a little time in his kitchen banging some skillets around, and he gave me a handful of cooking tips that I’ve never forgotten.

One of the best of those tips was so simple that I do it routinely, without even thinking much about it: When you want to make a hot-and-spicy dish, don’t just go for the fire, but think about your ingredients and bring together piquant flavors that support each other while adding a bit of complexity to the heat.  

Specifically, don't just use red or black pepper but build a mix. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Scrambled eggs ... with cabbage!?

Don't be too quick to assume that this odd-sounding combination won't work! I ran across this recipe in Summer Tomato, a foodie blog that I enjoy, and thought the idea of quickly sauteeing thin-sliced cabbage, hitting it with a shot of soy sauce, then gently scrambling fresh free-range eggs around it might be good.

Unable to leave well-enough alone, I kicked Summer Tomato's recipe up a notch or two by building in some aromatic flavors and just a touch of piquant fire to give it a cross-Asian touch that reached from India to South China.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Love me some risotto

Got leftovers? Make a risotto! This simple procedure almost always works for me, and it was just fine for dinner tonight when the larder revealed a little "tree" of broccoli and an aging part-head of cabbage.  Clean 'em up, parboil 'em, then make a quick risotto with butter, onions and garlic and arborio rice, adding in the cabbage toward the end and the broccoli florets, just long enough to heat through, with a handful of grated Grana Padano cheese at the end.  It's simple and reasonably quick, and with a little practice, the idea that risotto is a complicated dish requiring constant attention goes away.

Yeah, it requires some attention, but it's worth the 25-minute effort. It really is!

Is poverty intractible? Economist lists seven solutions

According to Luke's gospel, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor.”  Period. But many of us who consider ourselves even modestly well-off may find it easier to hear Matthew’s version, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” 

The affluent tend to find the latter approach more comfortable, Episcopal priest and retired U.S. Navy Chaplain George Clifford writes in his blog, “Ethical Musings,” because “spiritualizing Jesus' teaching saps those teachings of their revolutionary demands that we care for the least among us.”

In the midst of affluence and rampant consumerism, one in every six Americans lives in poverty.  Should that matter to the rest of us? What should we do to address the gap between America’s rich and poor? What can we do?

Are you being persecuted?

"Did someone threaten your life, safety,
civil liberties, or right to worship?
This question comes up every holiday season when talk radio starts blaring about the “War on Christmas.” 

Now blogger Rachel Held Evans (who I had the great pleasure of meeting and hearing in the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church Dimensions of Faith series last month)  thought she would help everyone out with this handy chart. (She asks that we offer thanks to Ryan Richardson for making it look good.)

What do you think? Is it a generous gesture to wish our Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or non-believing friends a warm “Happy Holidays,” or should we expect them to adopt our holiday so as not to persecute us?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quick pepper beef with snow peas

The other night I was in the mood for some comforting, easy Chinese-American restaurant-style pepper beef with snow peas, and threw together a quick and easy version that hit the spot ... and went very nicely with a cheap red wine, a Delas 2012 Ventoux from Provence.

I used @Gardein brand "beefless tips," an excellent beef-like wheat gluten-and-soy analogue, great for those who enjoy beef but don't want to sacrifice a cow to eat it; but of course you could use stewing beef or even ground beef formed as mini meatballs if you don't mind about the animal thing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Economic recovery: The 99 percent get lunch

"The Roy" mortadella and cheddar sandwich
at Jackknife Cafe. LEO photo by Frankie Steele.
My weekly dining review on and in LEO Weekly takes us to two appealing and reasonably affordable new lunch spots in the booming corridor east of downtown Louisville.

Here's the top of the story. Click to the links below for the full reviews.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hello, dal

Red-lentil dal with fennel slaw and basmati rice.
"Dal," a.k.a. "Daal" or "Dahl," is a simple Indian dish, a soup or stew made of lentils and, most often, garlic, ginger, butter or oil and an array of spices.  Indian comfort food, it's easy to make and delicious to eat.  I like it best with red lentils, which cook up more quickly than green or brown to make a consoling mash that reminds me more than a little of the other side of the world's answer to Mexican frijoles.

Tonight I made a batch for dinner, and it was as simple as this:

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Are you going to finish those brussels sprouts?"

Korean roasted brussels sprouts
with basmati rice
Ever since I tasted Chef Tyler Morris's Korean roasted brussels sprouts at Louisville's Rye on Market last month, I've been meaning to try to fashion something along these lines myself.  Tonight, after I ran across a really pretty set of small, fresh B sprouts at Paul's Market today, I finally got around to doing so, and all I have to say is, "Mmmmm."

As I said in my review, these little round green critters aren't easy for most of us to like. "Overcook them and they get stenchy. Undercook them and they stay hard, without the saving grace of crunch. And no matter what you do with them, it seems, they remain, well, tiny cabbages."

And so it goes. Still, armed with my memories of Rye's treat, and a little Googling that led to several variations on a similar dish created by Chef David Chang at Momofuku, I made up a batch. I don't claim that it's a clone of Morris's version, or Chang's, but it's my own, and it was good.


So I had a crave for a real New Orleans-style muffuletta today, and happily, dear old Lotsa Pasta makes one that's a fair match for the iconic Central Grocery model in the Crescent City.  I didn't want fatty cold cuts, though, so I talked them into making me a plant-based model instead.

Nice puffy fresh-baked ciabatta bun, check!  Thick slice of funky provolone, check! NOLA-style olive salad and plenty of it, check!  Now, hold the greasy sausage, but slather me on a nice thick schmear of tasty, protein-rich and gently spicy black-bean puree instead.  Slice it, wrap it ($5.50, more than fair) and lug it home. Lunch is served!

I was going to split it and save the other half for tomorrow's lunch, but I couldn't quit eating until it was gone. Mmmmmuffuletta!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mamma mia, it's a fried pie!

Fried pie might sound like just about the fattiest, most unhealthy (yet strangely seductive) thing that one could imagine, and the stakes go even higher when we start talking about fried pizza pie.  But Louisville's Boombozz Pizza, locally for more than 15 years of thinking outside the pizza box, offers a crunchy, crispy, grease-free version that's mighty hard to resist.

Check out my review on and in this week's Voice-Tribune.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A food critic walks into a Bar Belle ...

Birria de borrego (pork shoulder) at El Camino.
LEO photo by Frankie Steele.
 ... and hilarity ensued as we compared contrasting notes on El Camino, the hot new Cali-Mex eatery and watering hole in the former Avalon venue on Bardstown Road that's run by the same folks who brought us the mega-popular Silver Dollar.

Here's the intro. Click the link at the end to read my full report on El Camino at and

No, Bar Belle! El Camino is surfin' good

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What does the Swedish word IKEA mean in English?

Google Translate applet
Why, no. I am just putting together a simple little kitchen chair. Why do you ask?

Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm a veteran. Please don't thank me.

 November 11: Day Of Peace, Veterans Day, Origami Day, Sundae Day
It's Veterans Day, and I'm a veteran of (Vietnam-era) wartime service in the U.S. Air Force, but I was never in harm's way - a situation that I did everything in my power to ensure. Over the many years since, I have been much more attuned to pacifism than war-making.

I am very uncomfortable with being thanked for my service, so please don't do that. Rather than glorifying war by treating veterans as the heroes and heroines that very few of us were, let's work to end war instead.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Deconstructed eggplant-chik’n parmigiana

Earlier today I wrote about Food TV personality Alton Brown’s article in Wired, “Tastes Like Chicken,” featuring #BeyondMeat grilled chicken-free strips.

Then it occurred to me that this was as good an excuse as any to make dinner with some of the soy-and-pea-protein analogue that’s been getting a lot of attention lately. It really does taste like chicken, and its producers are building a serious case that high quality meat analogues aren’t just a thing for vegetarians, but could represent a significant increase in world food sustainability by producing a tasty, “meaty” protein alternative made from plants at a fraction the expense of raising meat. 

Even without non-trivial issues of health and humaneness being taken into account, that could be big.

Tastes almost like chik'n, says Alton Brown

When it comes to Beyond Meat chicken-free strips (which I've praised before), the wacky host of the late, lamented Good Eats and Iron Chef America seems mighty impressed.

Brown wrote a long article for Wired Magazine recently, highlighting a visit to Beyond Meat's production facility and his thoughts on the environmental and health benefits if  "analogue" meats can be perfected in a world of billions.

Breakfast of champions!

Fresh fruit - varies with the season - and plain, unsweetened yogurt ... okay, just a dab of brown sugar to kick it up a notch.

This morning's feast, a juicy ripe Bartlett pear, blueberries and pomegranate. Healthy and delicious ... what's not to like?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wine-label inflation ... when does "close" count?

Not quite Chateauneuf 

I don't want to over-state my irritation here:  Domaine Olivier Hillaire makes a fine Châteauneuf-du-Pape and an excellent Côtes du Rhône, the subject of today's tasting inquiry.

But in an age marred by advertising excess and marketing hype, I feel a need to push back a bit when I read a back label brag that goes like this:

"From vines located just across the Rhône River from Châteauneuf-du-Pape."

Uh huh. Back in my snarky youth, we used to have a saying, "'Close' only counts with horseshoes and H-bombs." Otherwise, as another old saying goes, a miss is as good as a mile. Generally, a miss literally is a mile when it comes to wine appellations.

Winemaker poisons wine to kill thief

Well, this is ugly ... what do you think about the ethics (and legality) of this winery-defense strategy, covered in The Daily News Fetch on Lewis Perdue's Drinks Business?

I can certainly feel the sense of outrage and violation that comes with being the victim of a thief. But I can't ethically, morally or theologically support the idea of killing a thief over property, particularly in this setting where death is dealt entirely in the name of revenge. 
Winemaker kills thief with poisoned wine

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Trans fat ban!

Whoa! This is big, and frankly, given that trans fats are right up there with cigarettes in terms of their direct and immediate danger to human health being beyond proven, I think this proposed federal ban is a good and gutsy move.

In today’s political environment, though, there’s bound to be pushback, both from big industry with its deep pockets, and from the large number of everyday Americans who’ve drunk enough right-wing Kool-Aid to be prepared to believe the worst of government, even in the face of a public-health proposal well rooted in scientific evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Good eats make good neighbors in 'restaurant clusters'

LEO Weekly's Dining Guide 2013 is out this week!  The intro to my article is below, with a link to the full story online. For more, the following link will take you to contributor Marsha Lynch's lead story and all the other goodies now on LEO news stands around town.

What helps one helps all
Good eats make good neighbors in 'restaurant clusters'
LEO's Dining Guide 2013

Garage Bar in NuLu
Birds of a feather flock together, it is said. And now it appears that maybe restaurants do, too. For many generations, after all, the dining scene that our parents and grandparents knew required a trip downtown for that special dining-out occasion. Neighborhood dining was largely limited to your friendly corner bar and grill, a diner or cafeteria or maybe a Woolworth's lunch counter, or perhaps one of the city's early pizzerias or chop-suey joints.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Eeeeuuuwww! The anatomy of McRib

It's worth clicking through to read the full story about how and why McDonald's restaurants failed in Bolivia and left the South American country after a 12-year run of economic losses.  

But I can't help but lift out this delicious (not!) discussion of what actually goes into the McRib:
The McRib: 70 ingredients all restructured into one
Did you know that the McRib is processed with 70 different ingredients which include azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent often used in producing foamed plastics? McRibs are basically "restructured meat technology" containing a mixture of tripe, heart, and scalded stomach. Proteins are extracted from this muscle mixture and they bind the pork trimmings together so they can be molded in a factory. The McRib is really just a molded blob of restructured meat, advertised and sold like fresh ribs. There's nothing real about it, the preparation or the substance. In fact, McRibs really came about because of a chicken shortage. The restructured meat technology approach kept the McRib on the menu, despite the shortage, and the profits continued rolling in. 
All together now: Eeeuuuwww!

Click to read the FoodMatters article, "Finally! A Whole Nation Rejects McDonalds."

Monday, November 4, 2013

A poem for autumn

The days are growing short and dark.
It makes me want to whine and bark.

That is all. K, tnx.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quick Thai-style curry how-to

Thai-style curry with green peppers and tofu,
made with plenty of coconut milk to eat with rice.
Here's how to make a quick Thai-style curry with pretty much whatever you have on hand.  I don't guarantee that it's 100 percent authentic, but by keeping small jars of Thai red curry and Thai green curry and a few small cans of coconut milk in the larder, I can whip up a dish on short notice that reminds me a lot of Thai restaurant food, and I don't even have to go out!

Tonight's version was very simple, using green peppers, onions and tomatoes and some leftover tofu as the base ingredients.  You can use just about anything:  Meat, poultry or seafood, tofu or faux meat, or just-plain veggies. When our garden is producing, I'll often make an entire curry based on green beans sliced into bite-size pieces, or cubes of fresh eggplant.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Jacques Aux Lanterne becomes dinner

R.I.P. Jacques. Monsieur Aux-Lanterne, who gave his all for Halloween and now serves in a finer way as potiron rotie: Pumpkin, potatoes and onions tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and snipped fresh sage, then roasted 45 minutes at 450F.

A fine match with an offbeat Loire red, peppery and tart, Puzelat 2012 Touraine Pineau d'Aunis.

Fascinating wind map of the U.S.

This is beautiful. and it makes you think of our atmosphere in a whole new way.  Click this link to see it the nation's wind patterns in dancelike motion.

(Click the hotlink, that is, not the map picture, which is merely self-referential.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Chicken (or, okay, Beyond Meat grilled chicken-free strips, whatever) sauteed with green peppers and onions in Parma butter with a lot of black pepper made for a great, simple, Italian-style dinner over spaghetti.  Fine with a simple Barolo from Trader Joe's, a bit thin and tart, Rocca dell'Olmo at $14, but the kind of simple Italian table wine that made me happy when I was young ... and still does.