Friday, November 15, 2013

A World Where There Are Octobers

Author's Note: Octobers are quite lovely in DC, a mix of sunny summer heat and brisk autumn chill. It took a long time, actually, for it to really feel like autumn here. I was making what I think of as summer food well into the month. But then two weeks ago, the weather took a sudden turn, and I stopped buying tomatoes. (Gasp!) I managed to avoid buying squash for now. Once I break down and buy it, that'll really mean it's fall.Red Bean & Rice Soup

930g chopped onions (from 3 large)

12g minced garlic (from 2 cloves)

270g chopped carrots (from 5 medium)

390g chopped celery (from 9 stalks)

60ml olive oil

950ml beef stock

455g canned kidney beans, drained & rinsed

180g long-grain rice

1 bay leaf

40g chopped cilantro leaves (from a large bunch)

saltadd onion and saut2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saut1 minute; add celery and sautanother minute, followed by the carrots, cooking for 1 minute more. Add the beans; stir to combine, then add stock. Add rice, bay leaf and cilantro, stirring well; cover (or partially vent) and cook 15 minutes or so, until rice is tender. Remove bay leaf and serve hot.


COOKING TIME: 90 minutes

VEGETARIAN: no (but can be made vegan by using vegetable stock)

SOURCE: 12 Months of Monastery Soups

DATE PREPARED: 28 September, 2013



Onions, garlic, carrots & cilantro - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenueand given the otherwise low amount of seasoning in this soup, I figured a few cloves couldn't hurt. The cilantro was a moment of sfizioso: I just had some to use up, but adding it turned out to be a great idea. The soup became very aromatic, and its flavor was elevated as well.

As it stands, I think this soup (or whatever it is) would be a great wintry or late-autumnal side dish. (I don't want to start thinking about those times of year yet, but sometimes you can't help it.) It has a creamier texture from the long-grain rice; and it wouldn't be so difficult to convert this to a risotto. There's also an edge of sweetness from the carrots. I think it would go well alongside some game poultry or meat. If you wanted to keep it as a soup or casserole, you could start the cooking by browning some stew-cut beef, and then proceeding as normal. Thanks to the cilantro, if you added beef, a light drizzle of lime juice would be a surprising, but completely sensible, final touch. In short, as pleasant of a supper as this dish made, it's more of a base than a dish in itself.SUMMERTIME SALAD

2.17kg chopped watermelon (from 1 medium)

225g blueberries

15g chopped mint leaves (from a small bunch)

205ml orange juice (from 2 oranges)

115ml lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

120ml honey

120ml white wine

Toss together the watermelon and blueberries in a serving bowl. Whisk the citrus juices, honey and wine together until the honey is dissolved. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss to coat and chill for 30 minutes; serve, garnished with mint.

YIELD: 2.4 kg salad (560ml dressing)

COOKING TIME: 55 minutes

VEGETARIAN: yes (lacto-ovo)

SOURCE: 12 Months of Monastery Salads

DATE PREPARED: 28 September, 2013



Watermelon & mint - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

Blueberries, oranges & lemons - Whole Foods (4530 40th Street NW)

Honey (buckwheat) - Gunter's Honey (Berryville, VA)

White wine - Frisson d'Automne, Domaine de Guillaman, C tes de Gascogne IGP (Gondrin, Gascony, France)


This is one of the better fruit salads I've made in awhile. And the reason for that is simple: instead of cantaloupe, I used watermelon. I've had bad luck with cantaloupe this summer, so I took a gamble on the other kind of melon I found at the UDC Farmers' Market. It was considerably better, a few leagues ahead of the cantaloupe I've been eating. Juicy, dark pink and sweet, it's the melon I've been craving all year.

Now, the original recipe calls for both cantaloupe and watermelon, but I've complained before that the melons I get--even small ones--are like cabbage: you start chopping them up and they don't end. So I wasn't going to risk getting both kinds, otherwise, I'd only have eaten melon all week, omitting the soup for dinner and my salad (below) for lunch.

What I like about Brother Victor's fruit salads, especially the ones with melon, is that the fruit mix is very simple. He has one star--the melon--and maybe one or two more fruits to go with it. It really allows the fruits you do use to stand out (which carries the risk of amplifying the disappointment in the dish if you get a potato for a melon).

The magic of Brother Victor's fruit salads is that he makes a dressing for them. I think most people are content to toss together some cubes of fruit and leave it at that, or perhaps stir in some yogurt. But why not add a dressing? And in this case, it's an elaborate one, with lots of citrus juices, honey and even wine. Brother Victor shows that there's an art to the fruit salad that takes it beyond your average fruit cup.

Plus, depending on the kind of honey and wine you get, the dressing can be even fancier than originally intended. (And I must find more uses for this dressing.) I bought buckwheat honey on a lark--and was I glad I did. Buckwheat honey is deliciously dark, calling to mind molasses, but somewhat more translucent. The taste is darker and deeper than your usual flower honey too, with a richness that's immensely satisfying. I feel like I should reserve this honey for special occasions, not just pour it all over pancakes. As for the wine, the Gascon Frisson d'Automne tasted much like honey itself. It was no mead--it didn't have the heft--but it was remarkably sweet and fruity, appropriate as a dessert wine. The wine was eminently, dangerously sippable. I can see it pairing well with fruit tarts, perhaps with trifles, or other desserts featuring mascarpone or fromage-blanc.

The salad is particularly fun when the dressing combines with the watermelon juices and a little tart hint of the mint and the blueberries. Those sour notes are appreciated, to break up what would otherwise be an onslaught of sugar. Though I served it as a dessert, it has possibilities as a side dish to brunches. After all, that dressing is practically a mimosa, between the citrus and wine. Overall, a very pleasing salad--and a very refreshing one too.BERRIED SMOKED SALMON SALAD

195g mixed lettuces, chopped

225g smoked salmon, in 1/4"-wide strips

340g raspberries

170g blueberries

375g peeled oranges, pith removed, separated into segments & chopped (from 2)

35g sliced scallions (from 6)

235ml olive oil

120ml lemon juice (from 2)

30ml white wine vinegar

10ml honey mustard

Toss together the mixed lettuces, salmon, berries, oranges and scallions in a large serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar and mustard until smooth and thickened. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss to coat and serve immediately.

YIELD: 1.34kg salad (385ml dressing)

COOKING TIME: 75 minutes


SOURCE: 12 Months of Monastery Salads

DATE PREPARED: 28 September, 2013



Lettuces & scallions - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

Smoked salmon, raspberries, blueberries, orangesthey were good to bite into after a nibble of salty salmon. The blueberries were tart, which complemented the dressing quite well. Unfortunately for me, the oranges were basically non-entities, lacking flavor, which is why this salad gets three stars. Brother Victor also suggests blackberries, which I couldn't find, and I wish I could have tried with this. I think blackberries would really bring a deep, almost red wine-like flavor to this salad. It's worth trying again with those juicy berries.

I do wonder if the recipe's intent was to have a sweeter dressing. It calls for honey mustard, and you can go a number of directions with that. First, there's classic squeeze-bottle honey mustard. Second, there's honey mustard that's mostly honey with dry mustard thrown in to spice it up. Third, there's French-style Dijon mustard with not very much honey added. I went with the last kind, not being a huge fan of sweet mustards. Honey Dijons are an interesting breed, since the honey doesn't really sweeten the mustard so much as mellow out the heat; the mustard remains rather savory. It's the kind of mustard I would serve alongside a cheese plate. If the recipe intended one of the other two kinds of mustard, you'd get a much sweeter dressing; think of glazing a salmon with maple syrup or honey. I thought the honey Dijon from Domaine des Vignes struck a good balance between the savory seafood and the sweet fruit. And balance is always the key in a dressing.

In any event, this salad was a tasty surprise. Though maybe "surprise" isn't the right word. I had every sense that the salad would be delicious, otherwise I wouldn't have planned to make it. I'm attracted to unusual dishes, with non-standard ingredients. And I have enough of a memory for tastes that I can come up with a pretty good mental "image" of the combined flavors. (You could call it a "mental taste.") I had this salad for lunch, and it worked quite well, but like the fruit salad above, this would definitely be a winner at a brunch. Especially for people who like a sweet-savory combination. To be sure, as much as I like the stuff, this was a welcome break from lox on a bagel. Then again, I just had a thought of making a smoked salmon tart with cream cheese and berries. It could work. It's something to think about, perhaps while lunching on this salad.DUBLIN CODDLE

225g uncased & crumbled sausages (from 2 large links)

115g bacon, in 1" pieces (from 3 slices)

120ml beef stock

300g red potatoes, halved longitudinally & in 1/4"-thick slices (from 2 medium)

olive oil

135g sliced onion (from 1 medium)

Preheat oven to 400 F; grease a 9 13" baking dish with the olive oil. Spread the potato slices in a single layer in the baking dish; roast for 25 minutes, turning the potatoes once. In a skillet over medium or medium-high heat, fry the bacon and sausage for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, letting their fat thoroughly render. Add the onion and sautfor several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are cooked down and thoroughly browned. Deglaze the skillet with the stock and continue cooking until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Divide the potato slices evenly between two bowls, then top with the meat-onion mixture. Serves 2.


Sausages, bacon (Black Forest) & potatoes - Whole Foods (4530 40th Street, NW)

Beef stock - Swanson (Camden, NJ)

Olive oil - 365 Organics (Austin, TX)

Onion - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)


I'm often on the hunt for a good breakfast dish, especially for my first meals on Saturdays and Sundays. If done right, breakfast can be a truly awesome meal, perhaps the best part of the day. (I'm also on the lookout for breakfast dishes because they seem to be my boyfriend's favorite kind of food.)

It seems like the Irish have a great sense of how to make a civilized breakfast. The day before I made this, I threw my own version of a classic Irish breakfast together, sans black pudding. Some bangers, some rashers, saut ed mushrooms and tomato, English muffins and a fried egg. The next page in the cookbook, John Murphy's A Little Irish Cookbook, described the Dublin Coddle.

And the Dublin Coddle makes for a very hearty breakfast. It's sort of a more elaborate hash. And I should confess that this isn't quite the classic Dublin Coddle as Mr. Murphy depicts. In the authentic dish, all the ingredients (except the onions) are steamed, with the potato slices formed into a kind of cake that ultimately is crowned with the onions. The bangers are also sliced, not uncased and crumbled.

For my version, I decided to go for the classic saut ing (for the bacon, sausage and onion) and roasting (for the potatoes). I did this because I prefer those two techniques. Also, I'd gotten the sausage at Whole Foods, and for their housemade sausage, they use the world's wimpiest casings. I discovered this when cooking some of the bangers the previous day and they burst pretty damn quick. It was easier to simply uncase and crumble all the sausage.

The result here was an extremely rich breakfast, thanks to all the meat. I had thought of topping each dish with a fried egg, but we had enough calories in front of us, thank you very much. This definitely is a breakfast that you could eat and then go out and do industrial work all day. The best part of it was that, while the Coddle is rich, it doesn't feel heavy. You don't need a nap afterwards. But it does demand a lighter, more refreshing supper later in the day.FRESH MONASTERY SALSA

1.3kg cored & diced tomatoes (from 6 medium)

195g minced onion (from 1 medium)

5g minced garlic (from 2 small cloves)

425g cooked black beans

105g cooked corn kernels (from 1 ear)

60g seeded & diced jalape o (from 4 small)

55g minced cilantro leaves (from 1 large bunch)

5g cumin

3g cayenne

crushed red pepper to taste

halved or quartered peppadews (garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, garnishing the salsa with the peppadews. Chill a few hours to let macerate. Serve as a dip with sturdy tortilla chips, or rolled up in tortillas with queso fresco.

YIELD: 2.2kg

COOKING TIME: 80 minutes

VEGETARIAN: yes (vegan)

SOURCE: Sacred Feasts

DATE PREPARED: 5 October, 2013

RATING: ***1/2


Tomatoes, onion, garlic, corn, jalape o & cilantro - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

Black beans - Progresso (Minneapolis, MN)

Cumin & cayenne - Whole Foods (4530 40th Street NW)

Crushed red pepper - Spice Islands (San Francisco, CA)


After a breakfast of standing over a hot stove and oven, it was quite nice to switch gears entirely for supper, and dine upon a giant, no-cook bowl of salsa. And I must say that Brother Victor's salsa is quite piquant, thanks to jalape o, cilantro, cayenne and crushed red pepper. There's no real way to escape the gentle spice, because the seasonings so totally infuse the salsa. On the other hand, it's not like the heat is that aggressive. It does make your lips tingle, and it does build up, but a few nibbles of queso fresco and some sips of beer are all you need to cool off.

I thought about serving this as a straight-up dip, but the presence of the black beans gave me the idea to serve this salsa as a tortilla filling. I even poked around for some crumbly chorizo to add, but struck out at all my usual grocery haunts. (I need to find a Mexican grocery ) But between the tangy and salty queso and the juicy piquance of the tomato salsa, I had everything I needed for a filling supper. I especially thought that the corn was a nice touch for sweet flavor next to the seasonings' heat.

Another way to serve this would be as a base for nachos. Cover a platter with a layer of tortilla chips, lay out this salsa over them, and then smother with melted cheese. Because that's the fun part with salsa--or, more accurately, pico de gallo. You can do a lot with it. Brother Victor cans this stuff and sells it at his local farmers' market. He usually runs out of it quite quickly. I can see why.

I will say that the heat only increases the longer you let the salsa sit. We had some left over from Sunday dinner, and I came back to snack on it two days later. The spice punch was considerably stronger, thanks to the lengthy marinade. Oof. So if you like your picos hot, make this and wait two days. But if you have enough of a party going, this dish probably won't last that long. It's tasty and refreshing, light and satisfying, not to mention versatile. A perfect potluck dish with all the fixings you want.ROTELLE SALAD

230g dried rotelle, cooked in boiling salted water until al dente, drained

280g seeded & chopped cucumber (from 2 small)

210g diced red pepper (from 1 large)

100g green olives (from 20)

170g sliced shallots (from 3)

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeledpour over the salad, toss to coat and serve.

YIELD: 1.36kg salad (295ml dressing)

COOKING TIME: 110 minutes

VEGETARIAN: yes (lacto-ovo)

SOURCE: 12 Months of Monastery Salads

DATE PREPARED: 5 October, 2013



Rotelle - De Cecco (Fara San Martino, Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy)

Cucumber, red pepper & parsley - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

Olives, shallots & cumin - Whole Foods (4530 40th Street NW)

Eggs - Duane & Sheila Cleckner (UDC Farmers' Market)

Olive oil - 365 Organics (Austin, TX)

Red wine vinegar (aged) - Colavita (Campobasso, Italy)


This was a lovely and very classic pasta salad, with a little twist thanks to using rotelle. The original recipe called for penne, but I had the rotelle on hand from a pasta extravaganza the weekend before. And why not use something a little more atypical? Rotelle, also called ruote, wasn't created until after cars became widespread, according to Oretta Zanini di Vita's excellent Encyclopedia of Pasta. Both rotelle and ruote mean "wheels" in different Italian dialects, and the former tend to be smaller than the latter. (There's also a kind of wheel-shaped pasta, smaller than rotelle, called rotelline, "little wheels.") Technological changes not only transformed the pasta-making process, but gave rise to whole different kinds of pasta, like rotelle, but also radiatori ("radiators"), lancette ("pen nibs"), trivelle ("drills," specifically industrial ones), eliche ("helixes" or "propellers") and spolette ("bobbins"). There's also my favorite, in response to another kind of technological craze, dischi volanti--"flying saucers."

Apart from using a more atypical pasta, another little twist on your typical pasta salad came in the form of cumin. A generous sprinkling in the dressing made all the difference in the world for flavor, elevating a very basic vinaigrette to a higher level of artistry. It always amazes me that such a simple, small thing can be so transformative in the culinary world. I appreciated the cumin's near-pungency and smoky aroma. It brightened up the red peppers, for sure.

I also quite liked the chopped olives. Their brininess was a good compliment to the starchy rotelle and mild eggs. Throw in some contrasting textures with the crisp cucumber, pepper and shallots, and you've got yourself an attractive lunch. A lunch that your friends and coworkers can be jealous of. Or that you can bring along on a picnic.

In the future, I might add some sort of cheese to this pasta salad. Because why not. I didn't do so here because I'm always conscious of space: how much salad can fit in a Tupperware container, and whether that container can fit in my lunchbox. As for what cheese to add, queso or feta would be good choices. (Feta often is a good choice.) Ch vre, too, when crumbled, would be a pleasantly tangy addition. Perhaps some aged mozzarella. I'm thinking of sharp, salty and tangy flavors, rather than nutty, buttery and warm. But it would be possible to go too far down the sharp road: I don't think, for instance, that cheddar, parmesan or pecorino would work here.

On the other hand, it's not like the salad really needs cheese to be complete. It's very difficult to sniff at a dish of cooked pasta and fresh vegetables with a lovely vinaigrette. It would take a heart of stone, and such hearts aren't allowed in my kitchen.MANGO & PINEAPPLE SALAD

450g chopped mango

450g chopped pineapple

225g concord grapes

110g crumbled ch vre

110g chopped walnuts

160ml walnut oil

120ml white wine vinegar

A few hours before serving, whisk together the walnuts, oil and vinegar. In a large salad bowl, combine the mango, pineapple, grapes and ch vre. Toss the dressing into the salad and serve.

YIELD: 1.35kg salad (280ml dressing)

COOKING TIME: 20 minutes (fruit came chopped)

VEGETARIAN: yes (lacto-ovo)

SOURCE: 12 Months of Monastery Salads

DATE PREPARED: 5 October, 2013

RATING: ***1/2


Mango, pineapple & ch vre - Whole Foods (4530 40th Street NW)

Grapes - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

Walnuts - Giant Food (4303 Connecticut Avenue NW)

Walnut oil - Spectrum (Melville, NY)

White wine vinegar (aged) - Colavita (Campobasso, Italy)


I know I credited the source of this recipe as Brother Victor's 12 Months of Monastery Salads. But I could--and perhaps should--more properly call this salad one of my own creation. Why? Basically the only things I kept from Brother Victor's original recipe was the dressing and the ch vre.

This salad recipe was the result of some serious improvision on my part. Improvisation that was necessary because I couldn't the two key ingredients of the salad: peaches and fris e. Yep, it must be autumn here in DC, because there are no more peaches; even Whole Foods didn't have any. But I didn't want to completely abandon the salad recipe, so I substituted mango and pineapple, and then just rolled with it.

I also couldn't find golden raisins, oddly, but that was no matter. I had already jumped at the opportunity to buy concord grapes at the UDC Farmers' Market. Despite their seeds, concords are my favorite kind of grape to eat out of hand (as opposed to fermenting for wine). And I can only get them for two or three weeks out of the year. So when I see them, I grab them. And these were lusciously juicy ones too. They simply taste of dark blue sugar.

As a composition, the salad that I wound up throwing together worked quite well. Despite the presence of the ch vre and a white wine vinaigrette, I would definitely still classify this salad as a dessert. Specifically as a dessert for people who don't want something too sweet. This is the sort of salad you might want to serve alongside a cheese board, as attested by the ch vre. And this ch vre, while not the best I've had, was certainly tangy and creamy; it's been months since I've had a good log of the stuff. It was set off perfectly by the juicy, sweet fruit, which also prevented the ch vre from sealing my mouth shut. A pleasant crunch of walnuts, and a smooth blanket of tart white wine vinaigrette with walnut oil was a lovely final touch.

So I may not have made the recipe at all as planned, but I did get a good dessert out of the deal. I would gladly make the salad I created again and again. But I should, to be fair, also try the original.CORN SOUP

450g chopped onions (from 2 medium)

10g minced garlic (from 2 cloves)

170g coarsely chopped red pepper (from 1 medium)

200g coarsely chopped green pepper (from 1 large)

225g corn kernels (from 2 ears)

310g cubed red potatoes (from 1 large)

105g diced bacon (from 3 slices)

385g uncased & crumbled sausages (from 3 large links)

30ml vegetable oil

950ml vegetable stock

300ml beef stock

175ml tomato paste

saltadd the bacon and sausage and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the onion and saut3 minutes more, until softened and beginning to brown; add the garlic and saut1 minute, until fragrant. Add the corn and peppers, saut ing for another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and all the stock; stir in the tomato paste, mixing until incorporated. Partially cover the pot and cook at a hard simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper near the end of cooking. Serve hot.


COOKING TIME: 100 minutes


SOURCE: 12 Months of Monastery Soups

DATE PREPARED: 5 October, 2013

RATING: ***1/2


Onions, garlic, peppers & corn - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

Potatoes, bacon (Black Forest) & sausage - Whole Foods (4530 40th Street NW)

Vegetable oil - Giant Food (4303 Connecticut Avenue NW)

Vegetablethere'll be plenty of time later in the season for squash. Let me enjoy my bell peppers and tomatoes while they're still good. I may still be recovering from a squash overload in my first year of law school: I made the switch to fall produce way too early then. And that was in Wisconsin. Now I live in Washington, DC, where the autumn is considerably milder. Meteorologically, it still feels like summer, and the tomatoes are still good. So I'm cooking with them.

The other way in which this soup is just about perfect is its being a very rustic soup, as my boyfriend termed it. It's a mix of vegetables and 'scraps" of leftover meat, just like what one might have around the house that needs using. The added bonus here is the soup's colorfulness, with reds, greens and yellows.

The sense of rusticness is increased by the fact that this recipe is eminently flexible. As are most soups. For instance, Brother Victor's original recipe is simply vegetarian, and doesn't include potatoes. But I had sausage, bacon and potatoes from the Dublin Coddle that I wanted to use up. So into the soup pot they went. And I'm very glad they did, not least because adding all the meat meant that I barely needed to add salt. The potatoes also gave the soup a fair amount of heft. This soup isn't a light meal, so break out the crackers or a hearty loaf of bread. My last small change was to use a whole 6oz can of tomato paste, rather than a few tablespoons--hence the stronger color and tomato flavor.

On the other hand, so many additions probably wound up detracting from the titular ingredient of the soup: corn. By the time the soup was done cooking, the corn was just another vegetable, among the onions, peppers and potatoes. But that was no biggie to me. I think even in the original recipe, the corn wouldn't have stood out all that much. You would have had just another vegetable soup. A very good one, to be sure.

I was very happy to have made this recipe the way I did. It was perfect for the currently cooler autumn evenings, and my boyfriend and I enjoyed slurping up the bits of bacon and sausage with every bite. What a cozy meal!LEMON & ROSEMARY ROASTED CHICKEN

1.6kg chicken, cut up as follows: skinned, legs left whole, wings & giblets set aside, meat stripped from the breasts, carcass set aside

60ml olive oil

25g minced rosemary leaves

30ml lemon juice

18g sliced garlic (from 5 cloves)

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 lemon, peel removed & reserved, both fruit & peel quartered

Preheat oven to 475 ; in a 9 13" baking dish, toss chicken pieces with oil, rosemary, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer then scatter the lemon peel over the top; set a wedge of lemon on each chicken piece. Roast, flipping once, for 30-40 minutes, until cooked through. Serves 2.


Chicken - Duane & Sheila Cleckner (UDC Farmers' Market)

Olive oil - 365 Organics (Austin, TX)

Rosemary & garlic - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut AvenueI roasted them together. The breasts cooked faster than the legs, and so they ended up a bit dry, since all the moisture had simply evaporated in a 475oven. Plus, I'd probably be cautious about turning the oven up so high next time. 475is rather on the high side for chicken, as I've read: it can dry everything out very quickly, though it does cut down the roasting time significantly. But I suppose I should just take the extra time and get it right. It's often been my experience that shortcuts in cooking aren't really worth it; you end up shortchanging yourself on taste.

The other lesson was seasoning. I went at this chicken pretty aggressively with a whole small bunch of rosemary and a lot of lemon. Now, while fresh rosemary is wonderful stuff, too much of it can be just that. I minced the leaves of a bunch and used it as a rub for the chicken. In combination with the lemon peel, it came out rather bitter. I should have recalled the basic principle of roasting: it concentrates flavors. So a 1/4 cup of whole rosemary leaves may not look like much before you pop the baking dish in the oven, but it will be enough. Still, I might also omit the lemon peel next time around.

These notes for the future aside, I still greatly enjoyed this supper. All things considered, it turned out well, which was an immense relief for a first try. (Here, I thank my boyfriend for being my guinea pig.) It was also great to have taken another step towards culinary expertise, and learned many new things in the process. Can I really ask for more?POULET GASTON GERARD

2 560g Cornish hens, cut up (wings set aside)

salt & pepper to taste

paprika to taste

60ml unsalted butter

2 bay leaves

a handful of thyme sprigs

30ml dry white wine

235ml cr me fra che

30ml Dijon mustard

170g finely shredded gruy re

Season hens with salt, pepper and paprika. Melt butter in a large sautpan over medium-high heat; add hens and begin to cook on all sides, turning as necessary. Reduce heat slightly; add bay leaves and thyme and cook until hens are almost done cooking, but still moist. Preheat broiler; remove hens to a 9 13" baking dish, discarding bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Add wine to deglaze the pan; reduce heat and add cr me fra che, stirring until melted. Over medium-low heat, stir in mustard and all but 30g gruy re; stir until cheese is melted. (Add in handfuls as necessary.) Pour sauce over the hens; sprinkle with remaining gruy re. Place baking dish under the broiler for 5 minutes, until sauce is beginning to brown. Serves 2.


Cornish hens - Bell & Evans (Fredericksburg, PA)

Paprika & bay leaf - McCormick (Hunt Valley, MD)

Butter - Land O' Lakes (Arden Hills, MN)

Thyme - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

White wine - Moschofilero, Tzelepos (Rizes, Arcadia, Greece)

Cr me fra che - Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery (Websterville, VT)

Dijon mustard - Maille (Dijon, Burgundy, France)

Gruy re - Emmi Roth (Monroe, WI)


This has to be one of the richest dishes I have ever eaten, and probably the second-richest I've ever made. (The absolute richest being cassoulet many Christmases ago, but that's a tale for another day.) I discovered this recipe while working at the National Mustard Museum ( this past summer. One of the museum's star recipes featuring mustard, the dish comes from Dijon, and is actually named after a former mayor, Monsieur Gaston Gerard. He also had a soccer stadium named after him. I think this recipe is an eminently greater honor.

But, as the list of ingredients indicates, I did not use poulet, chicken. To be fair, I used a kind of chicken, the Cornish game hen (poulet de Cornouailles, in French). But this came about because, after roasting the breasts and legs of the chicken the previous night, I realized I didn't have much left for this dish the next day. Especially because I was going to make stock. So I trotted off to Whole Foods and, while staring at the meat case and wondering what cut of chicken to get, I noticed the Cornish hens for sale. Now, I've eaten Cornish hen at restaurants, so I didn't feel like I was totally going out on a limb; but I've never cooked with them before either. I thought they'd make for a fun change, so I picked up one each for me and my boyfriend.

And the hens made for more than a fun change from chicken. They turned out to be a near-perfect match, in terms of flavor and texture, to the sauce of this dish. Cornish hens taste like richer and more concentrated chicken. They also have a darker flavor. So even when you're eating what would normally be white meat--the breast, for example--it will remind you more of the dark meat on a chicken. I also think that Cornish hens often are more tender and moist than chicken, running less of a risk of drying out. The only challenge with them is eating them: it basically makes the most sense to just pick up each piece and eat it with your hands. I didn't use my fork or knife much with this meal.

But that darker, richer taste of Cornish hen worked beautifully with the extremely rich sauce. Just think of what's in it: butter, rendered fat from the hens, cr me fra che and gruy re. Plus, thanks to snapped bones from cutting up the hens, some of the bone marrow also enriched the sauce. The sauce is reminiscent of fondue, interestingly, and I think with a few tweaks, the sauce could simply be a fondue in its own right. But then you'd miss the added deliciousness from the hen meat.

Speaking of the sauce, be sure to have plenty of bread around. You'll have far more sauce than you'll need for the hens, so you'll want bread for mopping it up. My boyfriend and I had a basket of brioche rolls. Their butteriness complemented the rich sauce well, so it should come as no surprise that we ate a lot of brioche.

I did have to improvise on the cooking instructions a little bit. The original recipe calls for cooking the chicken covered in the skillet, but I don't have a skillet large enough to accommodate--in my case--two Cornish hens, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. I ended up using my two skillets, then removing the hens to the baking dish, and transferring the browned bits of one skillet to the other to make the sauce. The dish was unaffected, as far as I can tell. I also adjusted the heat differently than the original recipe, which called for high heat when adding the cr me fra che. I'm very wary of cooking dairy products stovetop on high heat; I've had experience with burning milk in soups. So I just kept the skillet on low heat and stirred the sauce carefully while the cr me fra che, and then the cheese, melted.

A final note on the wine. The recipe calls for two tablespoons, so you can drink the rest of it with the final prepared dish. You can, of course, use a French wine--and, in particular, one from Burgundy, where Dijon is. But I found myself gravitating more towards the Greek section of Calvert Woodley (4339 Connecticut Avenue NW), where I discovered Tzelepos' moschofilero, a varietal native to Greece. On a lark, I bought it. It not only made for excellent cooking, but also for excellent drinking. It was, as advertised, very dry, but it also had a bite and a surprising amount of strength, in terms of flavor. I don't often describe white wines as hefty, but this one counted, punching above its weight. Which is wonderful, because I can see a lot of white wines not being able to hold up to such a rich dish. They literally wouldn't be able to cut it. But this lovely moschofilero was the little engine that could. A perfect match for a celebratory dish, which I will happily put on my list of things to make again.CHICKEN STOCK

215g peeled carrots, cut in thirds, & each third halved (from 7 small-medium)

535g peeled onions, halved,set over medium high heat, then cover with a slight vent. Cook 40 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. After another 20 minutes, season to taste with salt and pepper; season again 10 minutes later, if necessary. Keep stock at a hard simmer for another hour; remove from heat and strain out the solids. Makes 4.7L.


Carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary & sage - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

Bay leaves - McCormick (Hunt Valley, MD)

Cornish hens - Bell & Evans (Fredericksburg, PA)

Chicken - Duanethey're mostly bone. I've never understood the apparent obsession with them at various sports bars--and even wing-only joints! Wings seem only an excuse to suck sauce off of bones, but maybe that's the entire thing behind their appeal. Does eating wings bring us all back to some sort of primeval caveman era (that probably never existed as such but remains an appealing mythology)? Or do people really just crave the sauce on the wings? In which case, just eat the sauce with a spoon. I do not understand the thing for wings. But I don't just throw them out, because those bones and what little meat is on them are good for stock.

Even though I don't make it that often, I do like making stock. It allows me to get the most out of a given kind of meat, in that nose-to-tail way so popular now. I even got a bonus from the wings of the Cornish hens. And a single chicken carcass can make a lot of stock, as my freezer attests. That one chicken I bought from the Cleckners at the UDC Farmers' Market gave me a great meal, and now will contribute to many other great dishes in the future.ST. FRANCIS SALAD

1.17kg potatoes, sliced like French fries (from 6 medium)

290g scrubbed & trimmed beets, left whole (from 7 small)

salt & pepper to taste

240g chopped escarole (from 1 head)

265g diced white onion (from 1 medium)

20g minced tarragon leaves (from 1 small bunch)

35g minced parsley leaves (from 1 large bunch)

35g minced chives (from 1 large bunch)

130ml olive oil (plus more for roasting)

65ml red wine vinegar

20ml Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 F; on three rimmed baking sheets, toss the potatoes with oil, salt and pepper, then spread in a single layer. On two sheets of foil, drizzle beets with oil and a bit of salt; fold the foil into packets and place the packets on a baking sheet. Roast the potatoes for 20 minutes, until tender, turning once; roast the beets for 35 minutes, until tender. (Some of the smaller beets may be done before this, so check them periodically and pull the finished beets from the foil packets as needed.) Let the roasted vegetables cool; peel the beets and cube them. In a large salad bowl, toss together the escarole and onion. Add the potatoes, beets and herbs and toss well. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and mustard until thickened; pour over the salad, toss to coat and serve immediately.

YIELD: 1.5kg salad (215ml dressing)

COOKING TIME: 150 minutes

VEGETARIAN: yes (vegan)

SOURCE: 12 Months of Monastery Salads

DATE PREPARED: 12 October, 2013



Potatoes, beets, onion, parsley & chives - UDC Farmers' Market (Connecticut Avenue & Yuma NW)

Escarolethe tarragon was particularly noticeable. But I did want more from them. In a future iteration of this salad, there are two ways to get more from the herbs. One way would be to mix them up with the oil, vinegar and mustard and let them infuse the vinaigrette. A more strongly-flavored way would be to roast the potatoes after tossing them with the herbs, which would certainly be worth trying.

Speaking of the dressing, the vinaigrette here was perfectly proportioned to this salad. It's a very tart dressing, given the proportion of vinegar and mustard to oil. But its tanginess sets off the sweet beets wonderfully, and the potatoes soak up the vinaigrette in a rather addicting way. Perhaps, if I roasted potatoes as a side dish, I would dress them with this. Or mix up this dressing as a dip for fries. It's helpful that the proportion of mustard to oil and vinegar helps stabilize the dressing; it doesn't separate that much. Plus, I like mustard, so this mustard-heavy one was much appreciated.KIWI & APPLE SALAD

435g peeled & chopped kiwis (from 4 large)

750g cored & chopped golden delicious apples (from 6 small)

330g blackberries

75ml lemon juice

235ml cr me fra che

60ml honey

60ml tawny port

Toss together the kiwis, apples, blackberries and lemon juice in a serving bowl. Whisk together the cr me fra che, honey and port until well-blended and smooth. Toss the dressing into the salad and serve immediately.

YIELD: 1.5kg salad (430ml dressing)

COOKING TIME: 55 minutes

VEGETARIAN: yes (lacto-ovo)

SOURCE: 12 Months of Monastery Salads

DATE PREPARED: 12 October, 2013

RATING: *** (**** for the dressing)


Kiwis & blackberries - Whole Foods Market (4530 40th Street NW)

Apples - Duane & Sheila Cleckner (UDC Farmers' Market)

Lemon - Giant Food (4303 Connecticut Avenue NW)

Cr me fra che - Vermont ButterI thought that sweet-crisp would go well with the kiwis and the dressing. The other change was from Brother Victor's suggested blueberries to blackberries. As it turned out, to my way of thinking, the darker and juicier blackberries worked better than the tarter blueberries would have. The velvety blackberry taste and texture paired better with a luxe dressing like this one.

I also think using apples was a better idea. Their crisp flesh can withstand a heavy dressing; and, having eaten this this over a few days, I can happily say that they held their texture and shape throughout. In fact, the kiwi sort of ended up being the weak link in the salad. It disintegrated next to the juicy apples, and its taste just wasn't up to par with the apples and blackberries. Pineapple or orange might be better on another go-round of this salad.

But then there's the dressing. It's practically frosting for cake; I'd use it as a glaze for angel food. You could use it as an alternative to simple whipped cream on something like, say, strawberry shortcake. It would also be lovely in trifles, parfaits and in puddings. The lovely thing is that it's sweet, but not too sweet. It has a mature, sophisticated taste. That balance is due to a few factors. First, while Brother Victor called for a tablespoon of sugar for this dressing, I omitted it. With honey and port, you don't need a whole lot of added sweetener--if any at all. Second, cr me fra che itself isn't that sweet. It's a considerably less sour version of sour cream, with a more buttery taste and an edge of sweetness. I think it beats yogurt as a vehicle for fruit or granola, and you could use it both in savory and sweet dishes.

The third part of the dressing's delicate balance is the port. Given that this is a fruit salad, and that there was honey in the dressing, I decided to go with tawny instead of ruby. Ruby can be very dense and thick, not to mention deeply sweet, so I didn't want the port to overwhelm everything else. (Moreover, the buckwheat honey I have is thick and deeply flavored enough, thank you.) On the other hand, with the port I got, you would barely know it as tawny when you poured it out. This well-aged tawny port looks like a light ruby, and tastes like it's heading down the road to the chocolate-cakey land of ruby and late-bottled vintage. But it hasn't gone down the path so far that it runs into the density problems I noted. I've enjoyed sipping this port after dinner on several evenings since buying it; it goes down quite easy.

With a dressing like this, you want a salad that can stand up to it. Now, the apples and blackberries did pretty well for themselves--especially the berries. And I think more of that would be better. Maybe other sorts of berries would work: raspberries, strawberries, pitted cherries. Perhaps hardy fruit like pears, or more unusual kinds like quince would be tasty. Tropical fruits would be lovely, I think. But as a whole, this salad made for a very enjoyable dessert.RATATOUILLELA PROVEN ALE

475g trimmed Japanese eggplants, in 1/4"-thick slices (from 3 large)

salt & pepper to taste

150ml olive oil

495g trimmed zucchini, in 1/4"-thick slices (from 3 medium)

185g sliced red pepper (from 1 medium)

195g sliced yellow pepper (from 1 medium)

155g sliced green pepper (from 1 medium)

430g chopped white onions (from 2 medium)

1.26kg coredlet stand a little more than one hour. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat; add onion and saut , stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until well-softened and only just beginning to
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