Big Stuff

sardines, fennel, tomato

I don’t know what to say.

It’s well into February and I haven’t posted here in what feels like forever. We’ve been cooking up a storm, working on projects in the kitchen, eating some truly wonderful things, but I just haven’t had it in me to post.

There’s so much to tell you. But I can’t talk about it just yet.

Dinner: January 22, 2011

I do want to talk about this pasta, though. It seems like every time I talk about this dish, something big happens. I last posted about it here in 2007, to an enthusiastic response.

Almost a year later, with Mike in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail and me at home in Providence, I watched wide-eyed as my site meter shot skyward, topping out at 12,127 hits – twelve thousand, one hundred twenty seven hits – thanks to a post on a Yahoo! Shine blog which linked out to that old Linguine con Sarde post.

And now my recipe for this dish, this humble pantry supper I’ve been making for us for years, is the latest addition to the second food52 cookbook.

As in book one’s scallop competition, I was up against the incredibly talented cook melissav, and today, I learned that my Linguine with Sardines, Fennel and Tomato came out on top in the voting. Sardines with pasta! People are cooking this, and enjoying it, people are eating sardines, and that’s not just big, it’s huge. I couldn’t be happier, or more proud.

To all of you who voted, who commented, who are a constant source of support and inspiration, THANK YOU.

Shoulder Season Soup

Dinner: September 28, 2010

I’m in commuter hell this week – I’ve had a succession of early or late buses in the morning, consistently late trains, and unplanned cab rides home from the train station which, in addition to being annoyingly expensive and sometimes terrifying, have put me in a big ole cranky mood in the evening, and craving exactly what we’ve been trying to get away from – comfort food.

I sat on the train in my work clothes drenched to the bone after a rain-soaked spin through the Boston Public Market on Tuesday, with tomatoes and fennel and green beans and squash globes and all sorts of other goodies in my totes, and decided a big veg-laden soup was in order. After I got home, I peeled off my damp clothes and changed into something warm and dry, and then I got to chopping: slender leeks, carrots, fresh celery, beautifully ripe plum tomatoes, sweet red peppers, globe zucchini, fresh thyme branches and green beans all went into my pot at various stages, sprinkled with salt and bathed in dribbles of olive oil and a judicious amount of red wine as they cooked down. I added a little bit of orzo to the mix, and when it was tender, added a good amount of freshly grated parm to the soup off the heat. I blitzed up a fresh parsley and fennel frond pistou in the mini chopper to spoon on top, and served up our soup with a few thick slices of Olga’s Pane Francese and some gooey, runny cheese from Farmstead.

As antidotes go, this was just about perfect.

Cool and Composed


Temps reached record highs in Little Rhody yesterday, and as I sat in my air-conditioned office in Boston, I knew there was no freaking way our planned Wednesday night dinner was going to happen in our not-yet-air conditioned carriage house kitchen.

quick-pickled cauliflower and carrots

I wasn’t inclined to cook at all, in fact, and began a mental inventory of fridge and pantry to try to figure out my game plan. I love a big salad for dinner on a sweltering night, and it wasn’t long before I had a few good candidates in mind.


We’ve always got the ingredients for what we call an “indoor picnic” on hand – good cheeses and cured meats, tinned fish, olives and other brined and pickled things, but our fresh vegetable options were somewhat scarce, and a special trip to the store was out of the question. I did have a big bulb of fennel in the crisper, and decided to use it as my base and go from there.

Dinner:  May 26, 2010

In the end I went with something that was a little bit like an antipasto salad, with shades of giardiniera and panzanella thrown in for good measure, a crisp-crunchy-tart-tender-tangy melange of shaved fennel and red onion, lightly pickled cauliflower and carrots, roasted red peppers, capers, chunks of Crespone salami and Parmagiano Reggiano, and garlicky homemade croutons, all in a zippy red wine vinaigrette.

This salad was surprisingly hearty, but the crunchy texture and the brightness of the flavors kept it from feeling heavy. Best of all, I got it on the table without breaking a sweat.

Smoke and Leaves

smoked bluefish

Mike and I are big fans of a good main dish salad, but we don’t often do them during the winter months. I got an idea in my head, though, after a recent visit to Mercato del Mare, to put together a salad inspired by a dish we had at B&G Oysters last year.

Dinner:  December 15, 2009

The star was a chunk of their gorgeous house-smoked bluefish, skinned and sliced thin on the bias, served on a bed of baby winter greens, with crisp watermelon radishes and tart pickled fennel strewn about. To give the salad a bit more heft, I added some wedges of hard-cooked egg, and I drizzled it all with a dressing made of creme fraiche, fresh lemon juice, freshly grated horseradish, and a blob of grainy mustard. Colorful and surprisingly hearty, this salad was just the what I needed at the end of a long, hectic day.

Last Hurrah

last hurrah

Yesterday was not one of my better days. My stomach was churning as much as my mind was, and my lack of appetite made it hard to think about what to make for dinner. By the time I was halfway home, I had decided on soup, but it wasn’t until I remembered the tomatoes on the counter that a plan took shape.

You see, I bought those tomatoes, green, at the last day of the Hope Street farmers’ market at Lippitt Park. My intent was to pickle them, or at the very least to fry them, but they sat on a plate on the counter, forgotten and turning from green to pink to ripe red. November tomatoes – a gift. I had to use them, and while they were surprisingly fragrant when I cut into them, I figured the best way to coax as much flavor out of them as possible would be to roast them.

Dinner:  November 16, 2009

I also had fennel from the weekend market – not a planned purchase, but when I saw those green fronds peeking out at the Simmons Farm table, I couldn’t resist. The fennel would get roasted, too, then the roasted vegetables and all of their rich juices would go into a pot of broth and shallot softened in butter. That done, I pureed it all until smooth, a little tickled at the beautiful orangey hue the soup took on as everything blended together. The soup didn’t really need the cream I added at the end, but it was Monday, and a little extra softness is always welcome on a Monday, don’t you think?

You can get the recipe at food52.

Sea-food Diet

Dinner:  September 11, 2009

Commuting to Boston can be rough, and it makes for some very long days (12 hours from the time I leave in the morning to the time I walk through the door in the evening, assuming I don’t work late or have train delays), but it’s worth it for many reasons. Like Providence, Boston is a great food town, and it’s a treat to venture out on my lunch break to source out items for dinner.

One of my favorite discoveries since moving back to this part of the country is Mercato del Mare (a/k/a “the cutest fish market ever“), a jewel box of a store located in the North End. Since Friday was grey and gloomy, I decided to head to the store to pick up ingredients for a light but warming seafood stew.

In a riff on my standard preparation, I decided to toss some Point Judith calamari into the mix. I generally grill or fry calamari, but since tasting a red wine-braised version at Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Local Food Fest over the summer, I have been eager to try a long-cooked preparation, and the calamari turned out as meltingly tender as I had hoped it would be.


Seafood Stew with Saffron, Tomatoes and Fennel

½ lb. calamari, cleaned (bodies, tentacles or a mix of both)
½ lb. skinless, firm-fleshed white fish (I used cod), cut into 1 inch chunks
½ lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ lb. cockles or other small clams, scrubbed
2 T extra virgin olive oil
kosher or sea salt
1 cup diced shallot, red onion, or leek
a big pinch of saffron
¼ cup dry white vermouth
1 28 oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes with their juices (I prefer San Marzano), lightly crushed
1 cup peeled and cubed russet potato
½ cup chopped fennel bulb
1 cup water

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the shallot, onion or leek and a big pinch of salt, stir to coat with oil, and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften. Slice the calamari bodies into rings. Add the calamari rings (and tentacles, if using) and another pinch of salt, and stir to coat with the oil. Clear a spot in the center of the pan and crumble in the saffron, letting it toast briefly before stirring through. Add the vermouth and the tomatoes with their juices. Stir and let cook over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Let cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, and partially uncovering if the heat is too high. Add the potato, fennel and remaining onion, plus up to a cup of water and a pinch more salt, stir and let cook until the potatoes are just tender. Add the chunks of fish, the shrimp, and the cockles at the end, letting them simmer in the hot broth until they are just cooked through – about 5 minutes should do. Remove from heat and ladle the stew into wide, shallow bowls. Serve with plenty of toasted garlic-rubbed bread on the side.

(Weekend Eats (and Drinks) will return next week.)