Thursday, August 19, 2010


Jars of fig jam.

A handsome display of overgrown basil from my vegetable garden.

Pesto, frozen for the long winter.

A regular cucumber shaped like a crescent, a kirby and a lemon cucumber.

A handsome pot of sedum.

My still somewhat leggy petunias, back in bloom.

Portland isn't exactly landlocked, but a good fish town, thus far, it isn't. I've been missing skate since I left New York. Well you can't find it here--not in supermarkets or seafood purveyors of any sort. I've been working on Dorie Greenspan's fabulous new cookbook, AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE, and there's her recipe for a classic bistro preparation of skate with brown butter, capers and cornichons. I called my local fish store and found I could order it and they would call me if it was on one of their offer sheets from their suppliers. Yesterday I got a call. My two pounds had just arrived. I went to the shop and discovered the supplier had sent them four pounds of the stuff. I hated the idea of their getting stuck with it, so I bought the whole lot and asked them to cut the skate wing in half so I could freeze it.

When I got the fish at home, I was astounded at how big a two pound piece of skate wing is! I had bought much smaller wings with cartilage or fillets. This thing was huge. My normal preparation would be a variation of Dorie's recipe, but I decided to check my cookbooks and found a recipe that required the wing to be poached and then served on a warm plate with browned butter and a final slosh of red wine vinegar with capers and some parsley. The poaching liquid was to be a court bouillon with a dry hard cider, white wine vinegar, water, bay leaf, pepper corns, and salt. I poached the fish longer than the recipe required. Once cooked, I gently removed the fish from the cartilage and put it on the hot platter. Then finished it with the browned butter, vinegar and capers and dusted it with parsley. I put it on the table with some steamed red potatoes and sauteed zucchini, scallions and red pepper.

Kyle eyed the fish with some sense of curiosity and dread. He never tasted it before. Skate has a ridged surface where it adheres to the cartilage, it's curves looking like rounded pleats. Normally the fish is very pale in color, but this larger wing was more pink than white. I loved the flavor, but the texture bothered Kyle and he pushed it around his plate, before I let him off the hook.

I had lunch with Jean-Francois today and told him I have a big piece of skate wing in the freezer. Being the good Frenchman that he is, he readily agreed to a skate dinner soon. I'll take the fillets from the cartilage. It shouldn't look so scary. This time I'll do it Dorie's way.

My friend Sarah brought me a large plate of green figs from her garden yesterday. They were pretty ripe, so I decided to make some fig jam today. I need to get half-pint jars. I only got two pint jars and a half-pint jar today. If I give away a jar, hen I only have one for me for later. But I will save a jar of this for Sarah. Making jam is surprisingly time-consuming. The actual jam itself goes fast. It's the boiling the of jars, lids and sealers, and then the boiling of the finished jam in jars later that takes up the time. The jam only took 30 minutes of gentle boiling.

At lunch, I got to work planting a large, shallow planter of sedum, a group of fascinating succulent plants which will be on the edge of the patio until the rain starts, at which point I'll put it under the cedar tree to protect them from excessive winter rain. It's a pretty arrangement of these highly unusual looking plants.

I'm rather proud of my petunias. Dyanne warned me they would get very "leggy" and might stop blooming and sure enough, about 10 days ago, I think there were less than ten petunias left. I had faithfully deadheaded the dead blooms, so I took the hanging basket down, grabbed my garden shears and did some drastic pruning. After getting back from San Francisco, I came out to the garden the next morning and was greeted by the sight of a full basket of many petunia flowers.

My garden is going crazy giving up mature cucumbers, and so much basil, I had to put up some pesto, which I'll save for the winter months. I haven't made pesto in years, and pulled down Marcella Hazan's recipe from her Classic Italian Cookbook. The four containers of bright green sauce of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and salt looked beautiful. I only have to add some soft butter and Parmesan when I'm ready to serve it. It should taste fabulous with some homemade gnocchi. There are regular cucumbers here, lemon cucumbers and Kirby's.

My twin brother, Scott, and his girlfriend, Bernadette, brought me this Angel's Trumpet plant over July 4th weekend, and once I found a good spot, it rewarded me with all these flowers.

I planted a bunch of small fuchias in this hanging basket. At first it didn't do much, but it's thriving. It's got a strategic spot right outside my kitchen window.

1 comment:

  1. Greg, my mouth is watering, even though i've never eaten skate! My friend Martin Rosen from Marin (married to my classmate Elisabeth Payne Rosen, author of "Hallam's War") was VERY impressed by the skate wings served at the Fairway Cafe above the supermarket. Great place to eat next time you're here. i MISS you!