Friday Night Heights – Shabbat Dinner

On Friday, September 2, we hosted a small Shabbat dinner party. This was a non-dairy (meat) kosher meal, which can be well done if you care (and most kosher restaurants don’t). As usual with our events everything was homemade. Almost all produce came from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.


For appetizers we served fruits and nuts. There was also some homemade humus and eggplant dip (that one of our guests generously brought), but I forgot to snap a photo.


Wine is one area where we go normal. Kosher wines are uniformly awful. Hideous. Wretched.

Parker gives this silky Rosso 90. “The 2009 Rosso di Montalcino is totally beautiful and elegant in its expressive bouquet, silky fruit and understated, harmonious personality. This is a wonderful, impeccable Rosso from Le Potazzine. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2017.” I’d rate it perhaps 91-92, with a little boost for understated style.


And the sweet option. Parker 91. “Donnhoff‘s 2009 Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett – ultra-delicate at only 9% alcohol and with considerably more overt sweetness than its Krotenpfuhl counterpart – is scented with buddleia, white peach, toasted almond, and a fusil note of crushed stone, and offers subtle creaminess, lusciously juicy refreshment, and minerally interactive persistence. This illustrates slate as a sort of sounding board as well as support structure for fruit such as one also encounters in the best residually sweet Mosel Rieslings. Donnhoff routinely expresses acute awareness of a duty to make something truly special out of the cooler ‘wrong-side-of-the-river’ Oberhauser vineyards that until the latter part of his father’s era constituted almost the entirety of his family’s acreage. That duty has here once again been deliciously discharged.”


What would Shabbat be without Challah. Raison Challah to be exact.

After going to Spain last year I’ve been on a bit of a Gazpacho kick, despite my general aversion to raw tomatoes (which I’ve been overcoming). And then about 5-6 weeks ago we went to Jose Andres’ Tres for brunch where they have a wonderful Gazpacho bar. So afterward I dug up his recipe on the internet and we tried it.

When I get into cooking certain dishes I like to perfect them. I’ve been working on this with my Ultimate Pizzas, my Spanish Eggs, and my Margaritas. This is our second stab at Gazpacho. It tasted great the first time but the texture was too chunky, so in this instance we whipped the living bleep out of it in the ever-reliable Blendtec. This batch is made with heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers from the SMFM and premium Spanish extra-virgin olive oil.


But first the garnish. This is a bowl prepped. The basic approach is to do this, and then to ladle in the soup itself table side, then dress it with a bit of premium Spanish olive oil. This garnish is croutons, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, spring onions, and chives.


The olive oil is on the left. On the right are homemade croutons. These are rustic bread fried (by hand) in olive oil and garlic, and seasoned with a bit of parsley.


Some of the gorgeous tomatoes used as garnish. Other cool looking ones are in the soup itself.


Chopped chives.


I’m kicking myself, but I forgot to photo a finished bowl with the soup. This one is three-quarters eaten :-( It was darn good though.


For the main course we made a homemade Morrocan Basteeya. This is prior to baking. This is a savory pie of chicken and spices, slightly sweet.


Out of the oven.


You can see into it here.


One of our guests brought this lovely salad.


We also made this baked Israeli-style eggplant, with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers (all from the SMFM too).


Here it is baked.


And my mother’s amazing fruit crumble. This one had SMFM peaches, blackberries, and apples. With a sweet crust and pecan topping. Due to the fact that my mother was on the other side of the country, and the written recipe a tad cryptic, the crust turned out a bit “different” than her more crumbly variant.


Still, it tasted great after baking!


And some farmer’s market fruit to finish.

For more home cooked meals look at the bottom of the food page.

Passover Seder 2011 – day 1

April rolls around and it’s seder time again, the ritual dinner celebrating the exodus from Egypt. As usual, things have to be done in full Gavin style.

Various ingredients. There are all sorts of traditional requirements to this meal, the most significant of which is an avoidance of any leavening agents, yeast, etc.

Parker 92. “Bachelet’s 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes – from 60- to 70-year-old vines both below the route nationale and north of Gevrey in Brochon – offers lovely black fruit aromas with hints of anise and mint. A truly palate-staining intensity of vividly-fresh, tart but ripe black cherry and blackberry is underlain by firm, fine tannins (not precluding an emerging silkiness of texture) and augmented by bitter-herbal and stony notes. Although palpably dense and abundantly tannic, this outstanding village wine still comes off as juicy, sleek, invigorating and refined. Put it away for at least 5-7 years.”

Parker 94. “The profound 1997 Barolo Bussia boasts intense aromas of molasses, cherry liqueur, melted tar, licorice, and toast. Dense and full-bodied, with enormous quantities of glycerin and fat, this hedonistic, thick, viscous Barolo can be drunk now and over the next 15-16 years.”

And for those who crave the old school sweet and alcohol finish of the classic kosher wine, the Kesser. No vintage listed or needed.

This is a traditional seder plate. It contains each of the ritual elements of the dinner. Starting at the egg on the right and heading clockwise. Egg, horseradish, lamb shank, lettuce, horoset, parsley.

Hard boiled eggs. Dipped in salt water before eating.

A glass of wine is left for Elijah, the prophet. He gets the cool cup.

Parsley, dipped in salt water.

Matzah, or unleavened bread. When the Israelites escaped from the Pharoah Ramses (check out Exodus if you aren’t clued in on that) there was no time to leaven the bread. So matzah, an unleavened cracker, is eaten in symbol remembrance.

More traditional accompaniments. At the top, Horoset (mixture of apples, nuts, and spices — homemade of course), the green is parsley, the pink stuff horseradish with beets, the white atomic horseradish! Mind bendingly potent. The water in front is salt water.

Another seder plate.

Matzah is traditionally eaten with the horseradish and horoset. This is called the Hillel sandwich, for more on that click here.

Gefilte fish. This is housemade from Pico Kosher Deli. It’s various chopped fish, boiled. A sort of unfried chicken McNugget of the fish world. Yummy with horseradish.

A big dinner requires a big pot.

Matzah balls prior to cooking.

The matzah ball soup. A very tasty vegetable/chicken stock with… matzah balls.

Start of the stuffing for the chicken.

The stuffing. Onions, matzah, peppers, etc.

The stuffed chickens.

On the BBQ. The grill is really the best way to cook whole chickens. You do need something like this foil to protect the bird from the direct heat.

The spread.

The plated chicken and stuffing.

Potato kugel.

Carrot fritters and pesto.

The salad and dressing.

My plate. You can compare to the litany of Thanksgiving plates.

The dessert spread.

The sponge cake in its early stages. Because no leavening agents are allowed, sponge cake is traditional. It’s fluffed up with egg.

It’s served with strawberry sauce (basically strawberries and sugar).

Fruit slices, also traditional.

Cookies.

Matzah, coated in chocolate and carmel.

Home toasted almonds.

The flour-less chocolate torte.

Iced.

Iced, decorated with almonds and chocolate dust.

With finished decoration.

Very full!

To see day 2 of passover, click here.

Ultimate Pizza – New Years

Finally, five posts later, we come to the main event, the Ultimate Pizza. This post is pretty epic, but just to recap. We set the stage with articles on the Dough, the Pesto, the Sauce, and the Topping Preparation.

Now everything is set to go. Most of the toppings and the workspace.

The pizza stones (actually, there’re ceramic) are in the grill, and it’s been heated to 800-900 degrees.

The dough balls (read about their preparation HERE) have been taken out of the fridge two hours before and are rapidly rising on the counter. In fact, they will soon escape their plastic prisions on their own.

The peels, spatulas and pizza cutters are on the counter.

And more importantly the wine station is set up. The bottles in the back are “best ofs” from previous nights.

Being New Years, it’s time for the big guns.

For the white lovers: “The 2009 Kabinetts were absolute knockouts, and the one from Dönnhoff’s famed Oberhäuser Leistenberg vineyard is a likely candidate for Kabinett of the vintage! A complex core fragrance of golden apple, vanilla, orange peel, and Indian spices are subtly interwoven with notes of clove and incense. In the mouth, the wine shows impeccable purity, concentrated tangerine and tropical fruits, livel y acidity and pretty mineral notes that become pronounced on the back palate. Complex and beautiful, it is the essence of why the wines of Dönnhoff are referred to as ‘the most perfect Riesling can ever be.”

And for the red lovers. A perfect wine.  Parker gives it 100+.   “This is a Le Pavilion of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. The 1991 Ermitage Le Pavilion follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990-it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. Very powerful and full, yet displaying silky tannin, this is a seamless beauty! Anticipated maturity: 2001-2035.”

The ’91 Le Pavilion was the first truly great wine I ever tasted, back in 1996, and I bring out a bottle of it every once and a while to remember the glory days.

For my first pizza I thought I’d give something new a try. The Tikka Masala Pizza. While shopping I had found this stuff, and it looked good.

This is basically a tomato butter spice sauce, perfect as a substitute for regular tomato sauce.

Then I had to imagine what would go well with it. Mild cheese I thought, so I went with ricotta. Some corn, fresh chanterelle mushrooms, and a bit of basil.

It tasted WAY better than it looked, which is generally the case with these homemade pizzas. Notice the cornmeal by the way. This is a very important part of the process, allowing pizzas to be slid around easily. Even after doing this about a dozen times (perhaps 100 pizzas) I still mess it up a lot. You need to make sure you can move the pizza without making a mess if you want a pretty result. I wasn’t totally successful this time and some of the sauce slopped to the edges. Next time I’d also put the basil on after cooking, or late on the grill.

It still tasted FANTASTIC! Like naan dipped in Tikka Masala sauce.

One of my friends concocted this one. Herb oil as the base (the one I made in the sauce article), and then the pesto I also described.

Sun dried tomatos, and goat cheese.

After baking, drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was real good too. Goat cheese and sun dried tomatos go really well together, and the herby/basil thing complimented nicely.

A mini. Sweet onion marmelade, gorgonzola, figs.

Also drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was really really good, sweet. Unfortunately half of it was accidentally knocked on the floor and enjoyed by Osiris (the dog).

My wife likes a fairly straight up pizza. The fresh tomato sauce I made earlier in the day, roma tomatos, figs, mushrooms, mozzarella, parm, pecorino. She did add some marcona almonds. Everyone enjoyed it immensely, as it’s a very bright and perfect version of the classic margarita pizza, but with a bit texture and sweetness.

This is another one of my cooky creations. Herb oil, the crushed tomato sauce, red onion, capers, and most of a jar of really really good Italian chunk tuna packed in olive oil.

I tossed on a couple morels too and baked it.

Then to dress it. My favorite fresh cheese in the world. Burrata. I’m going to write a whole post about this stuff in a couple days.

I put a virtual salad on top using my pre-prepared arugala tossed in meyer lemon juice and black pepper (discussed here in the toppings). Then I drizzled single vineyard olive oil and balsamic must on top. I’ll write about those with my burrata article. The net result is AWESOME. The tomato, onion, caper mix below provides a delicious tang that pairs with the tuna, and then the bright citrusy flavor of the salad, and the mild creamy cheese. Yum Yum.

For my next trick. I used as a sauce the pre-bought “black truffle sauce,” then added mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, bucheron, marcona almonds, figs, corn, white asparagus, and morels. Then I drizzled blobs of pesto, tikka marsala sauce, cherry compote, and fig jam on top, and a thin swirling of acacia honey! This is a sweet and salty pizza, a variant of one of my masterpieces that I call Formaggio Maximus (that one has more cheese, and less funny sauces).

I botched the transfer again because it was so heavy and wet. So it’s ugly, but it still tasted great.

Then I dressed it with the burrata. This is a very tasty pizza, with all sorts of sweet and salty flavor surprises in every bite.

Another big bertha of a wine. Parker gives it 98!  “The Philadelphia tasting was the finest showing yet for this wine, which has been forbiddingly tannic, backward, and broodingly difficult to assess for much of its life. In the blind tasting, I thought it was Lafleur, and came close to giving it a perfect rating. Although still youthful, it has turned the corner and is emerging from its closed state.
A murky, dense, opaque garnet color is followed by spectacular aromatics of roasted herbs, smoked meats, cedar, prunes, black cherries, and black currants. Rich, powerful, and full-bodied, with a thick, unctuous texture, considerable fat and glycerin, and dazzling concentration, Certan de May has not produced a wine of such intensity, thickness, and aging potential since their 1949, 1948, 1947, and 1945. It is accessible, but do not mistake that for maturity. This 1982 demands another 5-6 years of cellaring; it should age easily for 30+ years. It is a modern day classic, and unquestionably the finest Certan de May I have ever tasted.”

One of my friends whipped up this peanut sauce by combining skippy, sugar, soy sauce, and a bit of water for consistency.

Then he put down the herb oil and white asparagus.

Corn and a few almonds.

Then the peanut sauce and a little bit of mozzarella.

The result.  Again it looks a little ugly, but tasted amazing. As a kid I used to melt peanut butter on pita bread in the toaster oven. This was like the 100x better version of that. Sweat and spicy. The thing with custom pizzas is that anything that goes well with toasted bread (and that’s a lot) will work on a pizza.

This all took a long time, but we still had to wait for the ball to drop. So expresso. I have a little Italian commercial machine because I’m ridiculously obsessive about doing everything at the maximum level of quality — work or play.


New Years approaches. And so time for the crystal and Cristal. Parker gives this 96. “The estate’s 1996 Cristal, from a legendary vintage, does not disappoint. Like the 1979, there are elements of austerity that will require some time to sort themselves out, yet the 1996 is an insanely beautiful Cristal loaded with floral, perfumed fruit and vibrant minerality. The wine turns delicate in the glass, yet this is a sublime, fresh Cristal that is in need of further cellaring. In 1996 Cristal is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. According to Lecaillon 1996 is a vintage that did not respond well to oak aging, so only 3% of the wine was aged in wood, while 10% of the wine saw malolactic fermentation. This bottle was disgorged in 2007 and dosage was 8 grams. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2026.”

I use Riedel Sommelier crystal because it’s well… excessive. Austrian leaded old school hand blown crystal. Nothing else will do. Just touch touch it, and washing is a total nightmare. It takes about 5 minutes a glass, and can only be done by hand.

Desert. From Bottega Louie. We had a passionfruit poof thingy (upper left) that was amazing. A coconut sponge cake (lower left) which was pretty good. A chocolate thing (upper right) which was fair.

A coffee creme brulee (left center) which was awesome. A hazelnut choc cake (lower left) which was pretty good. A real dense bitter chocolate “cake” (upper right) and an amazing creme puff (lower right).

 

After all that, Osiris has the right idea. Happy New Year!!

We have so many toppings that two more days of pizza are possible, so I’ll be back soon with more reporting.

Please CONTINUE HERE when we make even more pizza for New Years Day.

Thanksgiving – Pork Insanity

On our third night of ThanksGavin craziness, after Wednesday, and the incomparable thursday, we move into our traditional Friday evening at my cousin Abbe’s. This year Abbe settled on roast pork sandwiches — a meal with deep South Philadelphia roots.

We begin with the pork roasts going into the over, basted in white wine. They came pre spiced from Fiorella’s on Christian Street in the Philly Italian market. They only do pork (specializing in sausage) and have been in biz since the 19th century.

Broccoli Rabe sauteed in garlic.

Roasted long-hots. Serious peppers.

Parker 93 points, “The 2008 Vico made from 100% Mencia with 30% whole clusters and aged for 9 months in seasoned French oak. Opaque purple-colored, it offers up a slightly reticent bouquet of damp earth, mineral, incense, black cherry, and black raspberry. Dense and loaded on the palate, the flavors are already complex and mouth-filling. Impeccably balanced and with a 45-second finish, it has the stuffing to blossom for another 2-3 years but can be approached now. It is a great value.”

A very nice super tuscan.

The 2001 Beaucastel, RP 96! “Beaucastel has been on a terrific qualitative roll over the last four vintages, and the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape (which Francois Perrin feels is similar to the 1990, although I don’t see that as of yet) is a 15,000-case blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and the balance split among the other permitted varietals of the appellation. This inky/ruby/purple-colored cuvee offers a classic Beaucastel bouquet of new saddle leather, cigar smoke, roasted herbs, black truffles, underbrush, and blackberry as well as cherry fruit. It is a superb, earthy expression of this Mourvedre-dominated cuvee. Full-bodied and powerful, it will undoubtedly close down over the next several years, not to re-emerge for 7-8 years. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2025.”

The Merlot was great too, tasting more like a Pomerol than a Cal Merlot.

Chef/Host Abbe chops grilled artichokes (from Claudio’s in the Philly Italian Market).

Our token white, “2009 Dönnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spatlese Even the “off-vintages”, if there are any, for Donnhoff’s most renowned wines get high scores, and are of the finest quality and greatest longevity. Niederhauser Hermannshohle is one of two famous single vineyards which Dönnhoff farms, and the 2009 delivers a wallop, serving up a subtle olfactory treat of blood orange, pear, stone fruit, and talcum powder. In the mouth, incredible concentration comes to fore, as vivid flavors of orange pulp, blueberry, and wild cherry balance racy acidity, luscious mineral notes and a creamy, almost decadent, mouthfeel! A succulent, loaded offering that promises to delight for several years to come…that is, if you can possibly resist drinking it now!”

The heart stopping cheese selection. Camembert, Epposises, quince paste.

More options.

The bread.

And Thursday night’s Tapenade.

The wine keeps on rolling. A 2005 by Raul Perez, spectacular. And the Hall, “The dense purple-colored 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain reveals abundant aromas of cassis interwoven with hints of bay leaf, licorice, and underbrush. Moderately high tannins give pause, but the sweetness of the fruit as well as the level of glycerin and concentration bode well assuming the tannins fall away at a reasonable pace.”

Some folk don’t like the other white meat, so panko crusted pan fried flounder was on the menu for them.

The pork roasts emerge!

Cousin Matt invested in a meat slicer just for the occasion.

The pork was intended to be assembled into sandwiches. Here is salad, artichokes, and provolone fresh from Philly’s Italian market.

Chef Abbe presides over the fish, the broccoli rabe, the “juice” and rolls.

A fish sandwich.

My pork sandwich, with the spicy peppers, cheese, artichoke, broccoli rabe, etc. Pork is soaked in the juice (gravy) ala French dip style.

Mom levers her special “Apple Drapple” Cake out of the pan.

Lo and behold, a second pecan pie!

The Apple Drapple, dressed for my son’s second birthday.

 

ThanksGavin Calendar:

Wednesday night dinner

Thursday night Thanksgiving Feast

Friday night pork roast (this post)

Saturday Deli Brunch