Another heavenly black cod

I wrote about Siren SeaSA and Black Cod back in September.

Here we are in January and Anna supplied Black Cod again for a stew as hearty and complex as the Hacked Soux Vide was pure and simple.

Still sitting at the table, I wrote down my observations because I knew I would be writing about this marvelous dinner on eats… even though Carol did the actual cooking. (Hey — it’s Saturday, C likes to cook on the weekends, and besides, this dish doesn’t use a chopped onion, a process that drives C into a teary frenzy.):

“The pristine, sweet, white, velvety fish as a counterpoint to the rich picquent sauce and earthy potatoes is purely heaven in a bowl.”

So… guess what? This post is about Black Cod and Chorizo Stew.


Here’s what Anna had to say:

It’s rainy! Finally! My reaction to the first big storm of the season is to crank up my fire, put on some good music, and cook cozy food. The past few Tuesday nights I have had my dear friend Emily over to my house to test out recipes for Siren… We were testing out this stew with the impending rainstorm on our minds, and I had the very strong suspicion that it would taste even better when it was actually raining. Being a scientist at heart, I needed to test my hypothesis. I gave a healthy portion of Black Cod and Chorizo stew to some fish plant buddies this afternoon as it was starting to pour. Raves. Freak outs. Marriage proposals. Either I’m a real charmer, or this stew is GOOD.

So Carol and I heartily agree. The recipe says it serves 4, but we two had it for dinner Saturday and leftover last night and there is still enough for a generous lunch for me.

You can get the recipe on the SIREN SeaSA website. It’s so simple to make, that I have no tips or tricks to share. Just make sure your fish is fresh and fine.


Enjoy. And pray for rain. We surely did.


Frittatas are a sometimes thing. I had in my mind that I made them often, but in looking back over the past two years, I found I’ve made them often only recently. See, when I think of a frittata I think of it as a big deal and a lot to eat.
Not true.
Not a big deal.
Not a lot to eat, especially if it is a two-egger.

I made a very special frittata in April of 2010,  but then not again until last September, when I made this one:


The beauty of the beast is that you can put almost anything in it; in this case, potato salad, green beans and sausage. And there are only dribs and drabs of each.

f_cooking_1bHere it is cooking on the stove for about 9 minutes over really low heat until it is not shaky, but the top is still wet. Grate some cheese on top. We fix the wet top under the broiler for 3 or four minutes and at the same time, cheese melts and eggs puff and it gets all yummy looking.


My frittata is a 2 or 3 egg frittata, made only for me — C eats traditional breakfasts — and is generated Saturday or Sunday morning, inspired by bits of leftovers. I cook it in my Le Creuset 6 inch skillet, the perfect vessel to heat evenly, hold the heat and go into the broiler.

cherry tomato and potato frittata

cherry tomato and potato frittata

And so, just last week a carrot two-egger with a leftover fish fillet… first time I’ve tried something like that.

leftover carrots that were poached in orange juice, butter and white wine

leftover carrots that were poached in orange juice, butter and white wine

I plopped a hunk of leftover fish in the center and poured the eggs around it. Those white blobby things are bits of Spring Hill Farms fresh curd cheese.

I plopped a hunk of leftover fish in the center and poured the eggs around it. Those white blobby things are bits of Spring Hill Farms fresh curd cheese.


Good and Good.

Happy New Year with Sugo and Sprouts

OK, over the first days of the new year, I’ve grilled Fatted Calf Lamb Crepinettes while C made this fabulous bar-quality Shrimp Cocktail


Grilled a perfect piece of swordfish


Slow-cooked a lamb shank braised in red wine and served over peas and noodles


(actually, a lamb shank is very dark and not photogenic after braising for about 5 hours in red wine)

So enough of the “special meals.” I wanted to do something easy and plain. That’s just why I always have some Fatted Calf Sugo di Carne in the freezer. (You’ve heard of that.)
Continue reading

Artichokes: WWeD?

What Would eats Do?
I have an old standby recipe and I never tire of it; Artichoke and Potato Ragout from the Union Square Café Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano 1994 — but c’mon, this cook needed a change o’ pace. [Now that I’m writing this, I looked for Artichoke and Potato Ragout in eats, to link to it. It isn’t there. I’d better write about it since it’s one of my favorites. Next time I have artichokes.]

My artichokes had been laying around for over a week and, time to get at ‘em. I was bereft of inspiration, so I went to the Food 52 website to look for artichoke recipes.

A lot of their preparations were deep fried and I don’t do that. Many others featured “healthy grains,” not much into those. I found four I thought I might make: Pan Fried Artichokes in Lemon Garlic Brown Butter, Creamy Artichoke Soup, Baby Artichokes & Farfalle, Braised Artichokes. Didn’t want to make any of those for tonight, but though the the Braised Artichokes was a pretty terrible recipe [cook whole artichokes in seasoned canned crushed tomatoes and water for 3 to 4 hours] it reminded me of a chicken fricassee dish from the Frugal Gourmet. That used baby artichokes braised in tomato sauce with black olives and chicken. I didn’t have any chicken, but I got out some mild pork sausages from Burgers’ Smokehouse.

OK… artichokes, braised in tomato sauce with sausages and, say, served over spaghetti. Where did spaghetti come from? I cooked a-third-of-a-pound for lunch and had enough-for-two left over. I made a list of what I might do and hung it on the cupboard door:

I forgot to say, I’m cooking a pot of Italian Butter Beans at the same time, but that’s not related to this dinner — some future dinner.

I had been soaking the beans for a while, so they were ready for the pot. My good friends at Rancho Gordo say that I don’t have to soak their beans, because they’re not old. These beans are from Iacopi Farm, but I know that they, too, are not old. No matter… I’ve always soaked my beans and it’s no bother. I pour water over them just after breakfast in the morning and by the time I’m ready to cook, they’ve soaked. Doesn’t hurt… can help. Continue reading

November Eats

Comin’ ’round th’ mountain: Corned Beef Sandwich, Sea Bass, Show Dogs, Faux Pomodoro, Sloppy Joes, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pasta Pompeii, Veal Marsala, Brunch at Marlowe, Thanksgiving, Pork Braciola.

late october market day

late october market day

So we rocketed through November and I had stuff like film festivals and the El Bulli film and new “Oscar worthy” films like My Week with Marilyn and I didn’t get stuff into eats. So in this first week of December, I’m going to blast all of November onto eats, hopefully, in an entertaining and informative way.

Corned Beef Sandwich
We start at the Tuesday Market with a corned beef sandwich from Wise and Sons Jewish Deli. I brought it home to eat, took out about half the meat for a snack later with cheese on AkMak cracker. Yummy.


Next up Sea Bass poached in a spicy soy sauce and served over rice. I did what I often do and am trying to get over doing — served this dinner on a plate too small for it. In any case, my fillet went from more than one-inch thick to the thinnest end, and all was moist and tender with this poaching method. Carol said, “Great.” Served with Romano beans.

crowded plate don't make it taste bad, just look bad

crowded plate don't make it taste bad, just look bad

Combine 1/2C of your best soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, sugar and chili in a skillet just large enough to hold the fish. Turn the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.
Add the fish, flesh side down. If necessary, add a little more water, so that the liquid comes almost all the way up the sides of the fish. Add about a dozen scallions and adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles but not furiously. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning as the liquid thickens, to coat the fish with a brown glaze. Serve with white rice, spooning the sauce over all and garnishing with the onions. [I used quartered spring onions instead of scallions]
How does one tell when it’s done? A knife will go through with no effort.

Show Dogs
The Broadway Musical HAIR came to San Francisco. How could we resist? We had seen it when it opened in Boston in 1969. We went Opening Night. WOW.
But this is about dinner before at Show Dogs, just across the street from the Golden Gate Theater.

looking at show dogs from the GG Theater

looking at show dogs from the GG Theater


carol's "show dog"

carol's "show dog"

my sausages, sauerkraut and mashed

my sausages, sauerkraut and mashed

Faux Pappa al Pomodoro
From “show” to “faux.” You know about the tomato bread soup “Pappa al Pomodoro.” Here’s my quickie lunch version with croutons cut from 2 or 3 or 4 day old Acme bread, a few cubes of leftover pork cutlet, and Amy’s Chunky Tomato Bisque. Takes longer to write about it that it does to cook it. All I did was add a little olive oil and garlic. Yum. Continue reading

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

a review
Embarcadero November 17, 2011, alone at 2:40pm.


Renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adrià is widely considered the best, most innovative and craziest chef in the world. In his kitchen, that which was once familiar disintegrates. Each year his restaurant El Bulli closes for half a year—time for Adrià and his team to retire to his Barcelona cooking laboratory to create the new menu for the coming season. Filmmaker Gereon Wetzel closely observes their quest—from initial experimentation to the premiere of the finished dish. In the course of that process, however, many an ingredient is examined in a totally new way. Taste and texture are systematically analyzed: by boiling, roasting, frying, steaming—vacuumizing, spherifying, freeze-drying—and then, tasting. Ideas emerge, are discussed and, finally, all the results, whether good or bad, are thoroughly documented—on a laptop beside the cooking spoon. Anything goes—except copying oneself. An elegant, detailed study of food as avant-garde art, El Bulli: Cooking In Progress is a tasty peek at some of the world’s most innovative and exciting cooking; as Adrià himself puts it, “the more bewilderment, the better!” (Fully subtitled)
Director: Gereon Wetzel
Cast: Ferran Adrià, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch, Eugeni de Diego, Aitor Lozano

Revolutionary Spanish eatery El Bulli is a Michelin three-star restaurant in Roses, Spain (two hours northeast of Barcelona); each night, it serves a tasting menu of 30+ courses, prepared by over 40 chefs, to a single seating of up to 50 guests. For the current season, its last before transforming into a culinary academy, over two million requests were received for the 8,000 available seats. Head chef Ferran Adrià, who took over the restaurant in 1987 and instituted the tradition of yearly developmental sabbaticals, has become the leading inspiration for avant-garde cuisine worldwide, alternately referred to as a mad scientist or Salvador Dali of the kitchen.

MY TAKE – This was good and engaging and very well presented; but to me, this wasn’t about El Bulli or about food, it was about research, development and presentation of a product… it happens to be food in this case. But the product doesn’t look like food, one doesn’t lick ones chops at the preparation or presentation of the food… the only reason I was hungry when I left – it was almost dinnertime. There is plenty of Ferran Adria and his top chefs tasting things and words like “brilliant” “exciting” “magic” “bewilderment” and Ferran once admonishes a chef, “This doesn’t taste good. Never bring me anything that doesn’t taste good.”
As for El Bulli, there are gorgeous pictures of the restaurant and the setting, but never the dining room, never patrons enjoying their meal. I was interested in how “china” is selected/created for each dish, but not a word about that. At the end, the camera focused on Adria as he was served each dish in the sequence it will be (is being?) served to the diners.
Would that we could have experienced touch (since many of the courses are eaten with one’s fingers) and taste and smell.
It’s like a long and critical and loving study of a woman’s face and makeup and skin care, but at the end, you know nothing about the woman, except that her face is quite beautiful and she lives in a fabulous house on the Mediterranean.

“For a foodie, the new film about Spain’s renowned El Bulli restaurant is a bit like an Angelina Jolie movie for a teenage boy… Food lovers can now salivate via celluloid. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, a meticulous exploration of how this famously avant-garde eatery comes up with its insanely inventive creations…for those passionate about the artistry and indeed the science of cooking, it’s dangerously close to porn. There are some unintentionally very funny moments, like when two chefs go to the local market and ask for five single grapes for their testing – and three beans”
– Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

el bulli

sardines, shimmery and sleek

Another week’s offering from Siren SeaSA

As soon as I got them home, I weighed them — a little over two-pounds — and dumped them in the sink. How beautiful is that? I just wanted to arrange them in various patterns, their silvery scales against the porcelain sink. Oh yes, but I had work to do.

Use a sharp knife to cut off the heads just past where their gills are. Cut a slit down their bellies almost to the tail (you can also simply lay them flat on one side and cut off a thin edge down the length of their belly-side), open them up, and (I like to do this part under running water) sweep out their guts with your finger.
You can, of course, ask the fishmonger to do the beheading and gutting for you and leave the guts out of your kitchen. Sardine guts are, however, about as innocuous as fish guts get, so if you know how to clean fish or want to give it a try, this is a good place to start.


Off with their heads! I have beheaded many a sand dab, so this is nothing new, except sardines are a little bigger and definitely rounder and thicker. Headless and gutless, they’re still pretty, but not as magical… even though one can still envision them coursing through the water in bright and lithe schools, bending and dodging this way and that; or the contrived version of the aquarium exhibits featuring hundreds of sardines swimming in a brightly lighted glass cylinder, swimming against an artificial current for your pleasure.

OK, but what we’re dealing with here are quite dead fish that need to be dealt with now. Continue reading


Just about a year ago, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant started a wine club and we joined. As part of the deal — two bottles of wine each month for $40 — with each shipment they include descriptions of the two wines and a recipe for one of the wines. The recipes are written by Christopher Lee, a former head chef of Chez Panisse and Eccolo in Berkeley.

Of those, I’ve cooked:

Salt Cod Gratin with 2010 Ajaccio Rose “Cuvee Faustine” from Domaine Abbatucci in Corsica (June)
Fish and Shell Bean Stew with Green Garlic and Saffron with 2009 Mataossu Punta Crena (Liguria) (March)
Coq au Vin with 2009 Bourgogne Rouge “en Montre Cul” Regis Bouvier (February)

The October shipment included 2009 Pigato, Feipu dei Massaretti, from Liguria and a recipe for Tuscan Pork Shoulder Braised in Milk. Hmmm… I’ve heard of pork braised in milk, but have never cooked it; I must cook that. The following Saturday I got a 2 1/4 pound pork butt (boneless pork shoulder) at GG Meat, and then on Friday, I got milk, fresh sage, extra garlic and a couple lemons — that’s all it takes, folks.

The recipe was written for a 4 to 5 pound hunk of meat, to serve 8. My pork butt was about half that, to serve we two and have some left over — there’s not many things better than leftover pork. The quantities of the other ingredients are relative to the size of the meat and the size of the pot it is cooked in.

So, here we go —

One day ahead of cooking, generously season pork on all sides with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.


I picked a pan in which my pork butt would just fit, because I’ll be using it throughout the several steps of the process. This is a Le Creuset pan I call a “chicken fryer,” which I rediscovered a few weeks ago.


Brown the pork on all sides. The fit was a bit tight to start, but I know the meat will shrink as it is browned. (There is also the advantage of browning the ends, which are up against the sides of the pan.) Continue reading


…among others

We missed the Fish Club while we were traveling up north, but the next Saturday we were treated to albacore.

Anna, of SIREN SongSA wrote,

“WE HAVE ALBACORE and I am more popular than ever.  I have been asking my fish plant and fishermen buddies what they like to do with crazy fresh albacore when they can get their hands on it. Nearly every person who answered started out with, “You cube it up, wrap it in bacon, then soak it in…” The … is the variable here. Wrap it in bacon is the rule. Duh.

We wrapped it, soaked it and grilled it and it was good. It would have been excellent, had I not overcooked it. On the next albacore, I’ll do it up proud and write about it, but the point of this story is about what I did with the wonderful fresh albacore that I didn’t wrap, soak and grill. That brings us to bouillabaisse.

Thanks to Brian and his Reno wedding, I have an easy and tasty go-to fish soup recipe.

Back in May 2010, Amanda Hesser wrote in the NYT Magazine about bouillabaisse. It was one of her “Recipe Redux” columns where she unearths an old recipe and asks a chef to suggest an updated version. When I got that issue, I couldn’t wait to try the updated 2010: Olive-Oil-Poached Cod With Saffron-Blood-Orange Nage, the “new fangled” version of the lead 1904 Bouillabaisse, and I did cook that.

poached cod

olive oil poached cod with saffron blood orange nage

I might never have gotten around to the 1904 version but when we were at Brian’s for the Saturday wedding in Reno:

“The limo was to pick us up at three o’clock at the Vista Restaurant, a five minute drive away – Limos are not allowed to pick up at private residences – the morning was open for hair, nails, pick-up-the-cake and Brian’s list of errands.
Brian planned bouillabaisse for lunch Saturday. He said its so easy, he has it often. As it turned out, it was a “Recipe Redux” Amanda Hesser does in the New York Times Magazine from time to time. I had made the 2010 version: Olive Oil Poached Cod with Saffron Blood Orange Nage. Brian can’t do citrus, so his go-to is the 1904 Bouillabaisse. He pulled out the tattered, stained Magazine page and handed it to me. We went and got some fish for it and I walked back from Scolari’s Supermarket — It is possible to walk in Sparks — while Brian went off on his errands. I started prepping… time passed and nobody came back from their stuff. Little did I know I’d be cooking lunch alone in a strange kitchen with a deadline. Soup was great!”

What else would come to mind when I had lovely chunks of fish to use?

my unused chunk of albacore fillet, lovely

my unused chunk of albacore fillet, lovely

...cut into chunks for "souping"

...cut into chunks for "souping"

In addition to the fish chunks, it takes scallops and shrimp — but only a few of each. Lucky for me, I can go to Whole Food and get six shrimp and four scallops, and I did.

six shrimp

six shrimp

four scallops

four scallops

The first order of business is to make the broth. That’s a matter of assembling and cooking olive oil, tomatoes, thinly sliced onion, thinly sliced carrot, saffron, a bay leaf, sprigs of parsley and cloves of garlic.

broth for the bouillabaisse cooking to the goodness stage

broth for the bouillabaisse cooking to the goodness stage

Once that’s all cooked until everything melts into goodness, add fish broth and wine and bring to a boil.

wine and broth added, ready for the fish and seafood

wine and broth added, ready for the fish and seafood

Now, you can add the fish or turn it off and wait for dinnertime.

When you come back to your broth, reheat, add the fish and cook for about 5 minutes until its done.

fish and seafood further cut into bite-sized pieces

fish and seafood further cut into bite-sized pieces

1904 bouillabaisse served

1904 bouillabaisse served

This is not such a far cry from the Bouillabaisse Mark Bittman expounded upon in his NY Times blog in 2009, adapting Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse to his Long Island sensibilities. That one I did make and write about.

So I guess — after all that — my point is: If you’ve got a great piece of fish, make a bouillabaisse; it’s not hard, and you’ll thank me for reminding you. Continue reading

an eats getaway

…ridiculous to sublime

On Sep 11, 2011, I got an email from Amy Winn, a colleague from Builders Booksource back in the day when I was managing partner of the San Francisco store. Amy wrote:

Hello all, Please come see Nick’s latest work at our home as part of Mendocino Art Center’s September Open Studios tour, September 17-18 and 24-25; 10am to 5pm. We hope to see you! Cheers, Amy Wynn and Nick Taylor

Sometime around 2004, Amy and her partner, Nick, bought two barns in Ohio and had them dismantled and moved to Fort Bragg. Nick was working on “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park at the time and Amy was the book buyer for Builders Booksource Berkeley. She taught me pretty much everything I know about the book business. They started off by spending a week here and a week there re-assembling the barns on their Fort Bragg land, then moved into an Airstream there and started the reconstruction of what would become their home and studio. I don’t think I’ve seen Amy since, but we have exchanged pictures and corresponded. What a great way to revisit a friendship and go for a weekend getaway! I fired back —

On Sep 12, 2011, at 9:49 AM, Marcus Rector wrote: Amy and Nick, Thanks for the invite! We’re eager to see your place. Will let you know which day soon. Marcus

On Sep 12, 2011, at 10:17 AM, Amy wrote: That would be fantastic, Marcus.  It would be great to see you both.  Be forewarned: the house is finished, but the landscaping still has a bit to go. xoxo a

On Sep 21, 2011, at 2:46 PM, Marcus Rector wrote: Amy and Nick, We have Google Map directions and plan to arrive Saturday afternoon. I don’t think we’ve seen anything about your house since pictures of logs and a layout on the ground. We’re really excited about seeing you and it. Until Saturday, Marcus

Saturday morning in San Francisco was foggy and cold. I figured we could be outta here by 9:30 and by gosh, we backed out of the garage at 9:34. We polled ourselves on an over/under of when we might see the sun — C said San Rafael, I said I hoped Corte Madera — and just when we came out of the tunnel and over the hill on 101, there was the sun in our eyes. Good start. By 11am we were in Cloverdale at mile 85 of our trip, and decided to go to Boonville via 128 this time. (Normally we go on up 101 to Ukiah and take Rt. 253 to Boonville, stopping for lunch at the Bluebird Cafe in Hopland. Less curvy that way.) In any case, we arrived at Buckhorn Boonville just in time for Brunch. They have good food and local beer, not a bad combination, except their portions are agonizingly large.


inside the buckhorn... some buckhorns

inside the buckhorn... some buckhorns

chicken fried steak and egg... next time, we'll order one and split it

chicken fried steak and egg... ridiculously large, next time, we'll order one and split it

hash and egg

hash and egg

As it turned out, right across the street, the Boonville Saturday Farmers Market was going on. Now, I’m a sucker for farmers markets so I just had to step in and give it a look.

Continue reading