A pleasing collaboration last night by HG and Exquisite Maiko. Well, not exactly an equal collaboration since EM did most of the work and Lesley R. added to the effort. HG’s major contribution was a rich and spicy dish of Japanese eggplant. It started by HG peeling five small eggplants. Tactfully, EM took over and peeled the eggplants with precision. Better than HG’s clumsy work. The peeled eggplants were cut into cubes and browned in Canola oil. Removed from the pan and replaced with chopped garlic and thinly sliced onion (Lesley R. did this prep work. Once more, HG bypassed tedious labor saving himself to soar in the lofty climes of creativity). When the onion/garlic mix cooked down sufficiently, HG returned the eggplant to the pan and added judicious amounts of Chinese oyster sauce and fiery chile garlic sauce; soy sauce, sugar and water. Simmered for ten minutes and then received a gilding of sesame oil and smoked black pepper. Powerful flavors. Lots of leftover rice in the refrigerator. EM gently fried it with eggs, garlic, shitake mushrooms and carrot slivers. The parade dish was EM’s sole. This is the way EM brings the fish to heavenly heights. First, EM fries thin slices of garlic and Japanese seaweed in vegetable oil. The crisp brown chips of garlic and seaweed shreds are removed (They will reappear to top the cooked fish). EM gives the sole filets a quick sauté in the flavored oil. Then HG adds sake to the pan, covers it and allows the fish to steam to tender perfection. This is all done with EM’s characteristic swift dexterity. The happy diners were presented with a lovely platter of two and a half pounds of sole lightly dotted with the garlic chips and seaweed. Ample bowls of fried rice and spicy eggplant. Plus, baby spinach steamed by EM, Green salad followed. A perfect summer meal.
Yes, HG is a food Nazi. Overbearing, Obstreperous, Nasty. Tonight, HG wanted papardelle with mushrooms for dinner (truth is, HG always wants pasta). Famiglia HG objected. SJ’s escarole soup with sausage and white beans was proposed. Since escarole isn’t available on Prince Edward Island (Rarely found in New Mexico, its home territory is New York and Brooklyn) SJ suggested kale as a substitute. HG, a classicist, objected. Kale, said HG is a trendy green favored by Manhattan fashionistas and Brooklyn hipsters. How can it replace earthy, Italian escarole? Many heated words. HG lost on all fronts. No pasta. BSK grilled oysters as a first course. Followed by SJ’s soup. Kale, onions, carrots, Pureed white beans. Whole beans. Lots of garlicky kielbasa. Powerful, heartening soup and the kale was splendid. This was followed by Lesley’s R.’s fishcakes constructed of hake, onions, potatoes, Goya Adobo and other spices. Masterful fishcakes. Lots of Prince Edward Island mustard pickles and a salad of heirloom tomatoes. HG did some powerful introspection as HG digested this wonderful meal and contemplated the skills and balanced attitudes of HG’s family members. Dictatorships, happily, do not last. It is time for HG to allow family food democracy to rule.
HG/BSK attended the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival near the town of Souris on Prince Edward Island. This is a two day event, the ultimate ceilidh, a celebration of Scottish and Irish music featuring scores of fiddlers, pipers, singers, step dancers and musicians from all over the Island, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. Wikipedia defines “ceilidh” as: “Traditional Gaelic social gathering involving playing Gaelic music and dancing. Originated in Ireland and Scotland.” The Rollo Bay event is joyous with lots of folks arriving in motor homes from distant points. In addition to the music, HG/BSK enjoyed a unique treat: Scallops on a stick. These were sea scallops breaded in a spicy mix, quickly deep fried and skewered. Dazzling. Reminded HG of other wonderful, casual, often unexpected treats. As a very little boy in Depression era southeast Bronx, HG enjoyed sweet potatoes (with a big pat of butter) cooked by an old man in a charcoal stove on wheels. In that same time period, hot chickpeas doused with chicken fat were dispensed in paper cups. These were winter treats. In the summer, Italian vendors sold chunks of fresh coconut and sweet ices. During HG’s later New York days, HG sneered at “dirty water” hot dogs but loved the wondrous Italian sausages with peppers and onions served on crusty bread and cooked on the back of Greenwich Village trucks. HG encountered some great snacks during international travel. Hot chunks of garlic sausage were sold with robust bread and mustard on the streets of Prague (just months after Czechoslovakia became a democratic country). There was another interesting treat in that beautiful city: “Vaffels.” A window would open in a nondescript building. A sign was hung: “Vaffels.” A crowd would gather. And, out would come the treats. Warm waffles covered in bittersweet chocoate syrup and fresh whipped cream. The cost: Five cents American money, Preposterously delicious. Possibly the best of all street treats are the northern Chinese BBQ carts in the Flushing section of Queens. Truck pulls up at a corner with a retro-fitted charcoal oven. Old lady begins laying out various meats, veggies and seafood over the smoking coals. Dusts them in a mysterious blend of cumin, hot pepper and other spices. Served on a wooden skewer. She’s famous. There’s a long line. Worth the wait. Best chicken in the world.
So far, this summer in Prince Edward Island has not been the most summery — weather has featured rain, wind, grey skies and quite cool temperatures. The sun appears for only a few furtive moments each day. However, the Prince Edward Island air is full of the scent of salt and flowers and the simple beauty of the island provides enormous pleasure. Walks on the bluff overlooking the sea or on the beach in front of the HG//BSK home are invigorating. Happy family reunion. Present are: Lesley and Massimo R. plus Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia (and equally enchanting Pippy, loving and intelligent dog, the perfect companion for HG/BSK’s Toby, The Wonder Dog). SJ and Exquisite Maiko plus Handsome Haru (celebrating his 9th birthday) and Teru, world’s most imperious and enchanting three year old daughter. The weather has not dampened spirits. It has also sharpened appetites. Last night, hunger was appeased by a seafood extravaganza utilizing family talents and the freshest creatures from the sea (including a halibut caught hours before in front of the HG/BSK home). HG and Massimo R. shucked dozens of Johnny Flynn’s Colville Bay oysters (the Island’s best). Profesore/Dottore/Ufficiale Massimo is as adept at oyster shucking as he is at illuminating and interpreting Itlalian culture. BSK grilled a dozen big Savage Harbor oysters. The raw oysters got a dab of BSK’s shallot and red wine vinaigrette. The grilled got hit by soy sauce. All of the oysters were consumed outdoors. Then the crowd filled the indoor dining area for appetizers: Lesley R.’s spectacular and herbaceous lobster salad plus her tingling tarragon infused Newfoundland shrimp salad. There was more: Exquisite Maiko’s halibut sashimi paired with Yuzu pepper. As always, EM’s dish afforded visual as well as culinary delight. Using the deftest knife skills, the perfect slices and rosettes of halibut were adorned by the tiniest slivers of radish and scallion. Then, on to the main dish: Calamarata in Fish Sauce. Massimo R. brought the Calamarata from Providence. A De Cecco brand, this pasta is shaped like a thick calamari ring (thus the name). Italians only eat it with seafood sauce. They are right. It was the perfect shape for Lesley R’s fish sauce composed of halibut, olive oil, garlic, onions, fennel, white wine, chopped herbs and a discreet amount of tomato. Plenty of red pepper flakes for spice and heat. Knockout of a dish. No room for dessert. But, HG managed to close the feast with a few snifters of brandy and Peychaud Bitters.
Ten for dinner. The extended HG clan plus Noel and Yossi M., BSK’s sister and brother-in-law (owners of super verdant PEI property south of HG/BSK’s home). After many nights of seafood, it was SJ’s turn to create a pork feast. SJ knows how to glorify the piggy wiggy. The dinner group, maddened with hunger honed by salt air, walks along the bluffs and beaches, awaited the food with (understatement) eagerness. SJ had rubbed a pork shoulder with a mix of brown sugar, chile powder, white pepper, garlic powder, celery seed, mustard, cumin and salt. Smoked it on the barbecue for five hours. This was the basis for pulled pork enhanced by a homemade vinegar based barbecue sauce. In the oven was another slow cooked pork shoulder prepared in the Mexican/Oaxacan/ Puerto Rican (pernil) style. The pork was stuffed with slivers of garlic and baked with onions, orange juice, lime juice, salt and cumin. Produced lots of sauce to enrich rice. As a side SJ also produced a spicy stew of black beans and Hungarian sausage and some fresh pico de gallo. BSK did a salad of PEI’s wonderful yellow beans and Lesley R. sliced heirloom tomatoes, sweet onions and avocado into a sprightly mix. There were plenty of tortillas on the table plush icy Gahan’s beer and Spanish Tempranillo wine. Finished with Lesley R.’s blueberry and strawberry gratin — a perfect desert balancing the sweet, the buttery and the sour. Though the day was grey, SJ created food that brought Mexican and Caribbean sunshine to the table. Viva SJ !!
There are two things Americans never order in Paris bistros: Andouillette (chitterling sausage) and tete de veau (boiled calf or veal head). Andouiellette is a horror, HG agrees. It is a sausage that smells like a bad toilet. Wikipedia explains: “The aroma is due to the pig’s colon utilized in the sausage which incorporates some of the same compounds that contribute to the odours of excremement.” Bluntly: It smells like shit. (French gourmands have told HG that the sausage is a robust, earthy treat. Nevertheless…). On the other hand, tete de veau, which offers copious amounts of cheeck, tongue, brains and other bits, is a treat. It is usually served with Sauce Gribiche (an HG favorite). This is a vibrant sauce composed of hard boiled eggs, mustard, olive oil, vinegar, capers, cornichons and herbs. HG always requests the amount of Gribiche be doubled. David Lebovitz (food blogger —David Lebovitz: Living the Sweet Life in Paris — and Author of the book: The Sweet Life In Paris) did a nice post on Gribiche entitled “Sauce Gribiche, Au Pif”. The phrase means “by the nose”. In the post a French friend tells David to make Gribiche “au pif”. That is, trust your instincts and individual taste in making the sauce. That’s what HG did last night when HG prepared a copious amount of Gribiche. It was served over lightly poached cod. Brought the fish to heavenly heights. On the plate were little PEI potatoes drenched in olive oil, Maldon sea salt and chopped herbs. BSK gilded the lily by doing BSK’s signature Asian sauté of bok choy and snow pea pods with garlic, ginger, sesame oil and Vietnamese fish sauce. A sumptuous meal.
Prince Edward Island is often called, with affection, “Spud Isle” because of its abundance of potato fields. Potatoes have been grown on PEI since 1760. It is now a billion dollar industry with some 330 potato growers cultivating 88,000 of mainly family owned acres which makes PEI the largest potato growing province in Canada. PEI’s soil is red, sandy with a high iron content giving the PEI potato a unique mineral tang. HG has never seen PEI potatoes in American supermarkets; instead we Americans consume spuds (which often have been stored for up to a year) from Idaho and Maine. PEI potatoes are better, attests HG. A favorite companion of roast chicken is BSK’s “smashed potatoes.” BSK roughly crushes boiled potatoes and mixes them with warmed chicken broth and sliced scallions. HG likes this better (and it’s healthier) than butter/cream potato puree. HG often slices PEI potatoes on a Japanese mandoline slicer and pan fries them with an abundance of chopped garlic (influenced by Paris bistro L’Ami Louis). Great with steak. A local favorite dish here on PEI is a “PEI Galette”: a casserole of thinly sliced potatoes, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, herbs, garlic, olive oil, pureed onions baked in the oven and browned under the broiler. Sounds good. Have to try it.
Salmon with sorrel sauce (sauce oseille) is on the menus of many French bistros. Popularized by the chef Pierre Troisgros, the sauce is a lush mix of butter, cream and fish stock flavored with a chiffonade of sorrel leaves. HG/BSK have always enjoyed this bistro classic in Paris; however, when cooking farm raised salmon (alas, the only kind available on Prince Edward Island), BSK have modified this lush sauce to create a healthier, easier-to-prepare taste treat that still manages to elevate salmon to culinary heights. BSK grows sorrel in the BSK herb garden and it is grows like a weed — fast and furious. With this abundance, BSK makes sorrel soup (sauteed sorrel, butter lettuce, onion, butter and chicken broth pureed altogther). It is a great soup whether served hot or cold. To make a sauce for salmon, BSK reduces some soup and simmers it with additional butter and beaten egg yolks. Draped over a poached salmon, it is summer heaven.
HG/BSK were at the lovely St. Peters Harbor Beach (A.K.A. The Bad Boy Beach according to grandson Haru) yesterday. Powdery white sand. Towering sand dunes and beach grass tossed by the breezes. Would have been perfect except for broiling heat. Hottest day HG/BSK ever encountered on Prince Edward Island. Even a plunge in the cold surf couldn’t cool HG sufficiently. HG/BSK’s home on the Island’s northeast shore proved to be an oasis. Shade, insulation and architecture that places windows to strategically pick up breezes and ventilation from every direction. After showering, HG listened to Scarlatti concertos and sipped Pernod (Pernod with lots of ice, cold water and a dash of Angostura Bitters) while watching gulls and herons skim over the sea. HG/BSK then proceed to a leisurely, deeply satisfying hot weather meal. Savage Harbor oysters on the half shell with shallot/vinegar condiment; grilled oysters with a dab of butter and lemon; grilled local asparagus dressed with garlic, olive oil and sea salt. Main dish was a platter of simply dressed garden lettuce topped with gently browned sea scallops. Drank some cold Pinot Grigio and finished with glasses of Argentine Trapiche and slivers of Oka cheese. Delightful dining on a rare scorcher in PEI.
Pernod, the French anise based distilled spirit, is symbolic of summer for HG. Emulating the sun bronzed habitués of the Marseilles waterfront, HG likes to celebrate the glorious few hours before dinner (or supper, as the evening meal is called on Prince Edward Island) watching the sun go down with a soothing but stimulating glass of a Pernod beverage in hand. Simplest way to enjoy Pernod is on the rocks with water. The green spirit changes color in a happy way. HG sometimes gets sightly more elaborate by adding a dash of sugar syrup and Angostura Bitters to the drink. This is a more sober approach to supper than HG’s usual vodka on the rocks. HG often adds a small spoonful of Pernod to fish stews. Brings a touch of Provencal flavor. When added to olive oil, vinegar and fennel seeds, Pernod makes a pleasing marinade for salmon and other broiled fish.