Day into night at home / 06
A dose of celebration for cooking at home!
Wine-poached pears are one of my favorite things. I had them once when I was 13 at a tiny French restaurant with beautiful balconies in Old San Juan. It was my stepsister’s 16th birthday and the whole experience stole my heart—the balmy night, the balconies, the celebration, and the pears. I didn’t have them again for years, but they stayed with me as something special. Some may find them a bit stodgy, but to me they are timeless and chic.
Here, they are poached with wine, honey, orange zest, and a little rum. With poached pears, I find that a little booze ties it all together. It brings the beguiling element to the dish.
Then there is the salted honey & cardamom creme anglaise. It’s so freaking good. I had to stop myself from eating it like a soup! And that’s the main thing, I think, with developing recipes: the search for that combination of flavors that makes you want one more bite. The beguiling— what keeps calling you back, what makes you recall the dish days (or years) later.
That was the case for me with the main dish this week, a mushroom and quinoa risotto, or a quinotto. I had it 12 years ago in Los Angeles, at a Peruvian restaurant in a market called La Paloma, and still think about it. How creamy and satisfying it was and how unlike any other quinoa I had eaten. (The restaurant is no longer there but there’s an incredible Mexican seafood restaurant called Holbox. If you’re in LA, it’s worth the out-of-the-way drive to get an octopus taco. But I digress!)
For the quinoa, I made mine with bean broth, some leek greens I had in the freezer, and a small handful of dried mushrooms. If you were here for last week’s menu and saved the cooking liquid from your beans, then you’re ready to add any bit or bob you have, as I did. If you don’t have some bean broth stored, there are a few things you can do. You can make this non-vegetarian and use chicken broth. You can make a quick leek broth, which is a great thing. Or you can make a pot of beans to eat throughout the week and use the cooking liquid or bean broth for your quinoa.
(Wondering what to do with that pot of beans? If they are cannellini beans—my favorite kind to have a big pot of for no reason—, you could make a salad with oil-cured tuna, red wine vinegar, and the beans; you can eat them on a thick slice of toast with lots of olive oil drizzled on top; or you can make a super yummy veggie soup with carrots, Swiss chard, potatoes, and the beans, then drizzle it all with olive oil and grate lots of Parmesan on top.)
This week’s first course is an arugula and persimmon salad with shaved Manchego. Super simple and really yummy. Get the firmer Fuyus, which are better for salads and are also great sliced into cooked farro, drizzled with sherry vinegar, and topped with feta, almonds, and mint. If you have a hard time finding persimmons where you are, I think star fruit might be nice here too. Of course that might be just as hard to come by. Get creative if neither is available.
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