A Spring Supper


Now is the time to make arugula pesto and that will be amongst the items for to-night’s plan of work. I have lots of arugula to pick and I can’t pick it fast enough. I’m hoping to be able to freeze and preserve some pesto for later use in sauces, soups or pizza for example. And fish too.


I’ll have a bowl of strawberries for dessert, maybe.


The base ingredients for risotto this evening. Garden scallions, parsley and peas. the peas are not this years crop. You can see the condensation rising. I pulled them from the back of the freezer…..my bad. The jist is that risotto made with peas in the springtime is a classic dish in the northern Italian kitchen. Risi e Pisi or rice and peas.


Now this is what I’m talking about. Simple peasant style cooking requires minimal screwing around with fish before you get it. Here we have transparency. Not only can you see the fish in it’s sealed security wrap but there are certain details that are pertinent here. You can see the name of the vendor, Red’s Best. And they are selling large monkfish tails.You also get the name of the boat that caught the fish, their home port and the kind of gear they employed. A perfect storm of detail, so to speak. But they also have one of those smart phone doodads. The next generation of responsible fishmongers. Diggit! It helps that my friend Jason is a big part of this. It is also the freshest fish in Boston.


Monkfish tails in garden spun wild arugula pesto. For this pesto, I used no nuts, capers or cheese. Really, just some scallion greens, lemon zest and arugula. Later, I seasoned the fish with sea salt, cracked black pepper and some of last summers spicy red pepper flakes. Just in case.


Monkfish working on the grill. Because the fish is so fresh and has such a high moisture content, you need a high flame to sear the fish, to color it. And don’t poke the fish either once it is on your grill. Let it sear. After it is seared properly, it will be a whole lot easier to manipulate and move the pieces around. For these pieces, I’m looking at a short cooking time of perhaps no more than 7-9 minutes. The side that hits the grill first will have more colorisation than the part that you see facing you in the photo. And the last thing you want to do is overcook this delicious Massachussets fish.


Here we go.


Grilled monkfish, sauteed golden beets and swiss chard, arugula pesto and garden herbs.


Spring risotto with garden peas.


This grilled wholewheat flatbread is going to be dipped in arugula pesto.


Seed potato. I got these as a surprise.I’m told they are called “Goldrush” but they do not look too yellow fleshed to me. But being Irish, of course I love potatoes. I’ll give these a chance and see if they live up to their name. Thanks for reading. Eat like a peasant.



Simple Deep Winter Peasant Cooking


This is the calm before the big storm. 18 inches of snow forecasted ….. maybe. Time to hunker down and plot a Spring kitchen garden. And eat enough carbs to shovel out the driveway.


Finally….it is near the back side of the chicken. This “minestra” is composed of pulled chicken, smoked prosciutto, celery root, rutabaga, herbs, beans and fregola.


Cornmeal for grits or polenta. I chose polenta. I love how coarse the grain has been milled….chunky, gritty, bits of this, bits of that. Polenta is the reason Italian grandmothers can beat you at arm-wrestling……..all that stirring. And all that stirring really needs is a little bit of attention and patience. Polenta is about as peasant as you can find. I also like the color. It seems just a little brighter. Hello, sunny day. I must try this for breakfast one of these snowy mornings. I’d go with honey and yoghurt.


Cornmeal mush with tomato sauce. This is perhaps as basic as it gets. Master how to make polenta correctly and you will be King of the Mountains. Peasant cooking is all about humble ingredients. The tomato sauce were from tomatos I grew. I made the polenta with water only. No milk, no cream but, in truth, I added a knob of butter and a little Parmigiana and folded it in. The polenta is creamy enough without the addition of dairy.


What is the difference between kinky and perverse? Besides brined, flattened and marinated boneless skinless chicken breast. The action of the brine allows the breast to remain moist during cooking. I pounded and flattened out the brined breast using the edge of a heavy blade. And then it sat in a marinade.


Kinky is when you use the feather of the chicken only. Perverse is when you use the entire  chicken. Swift thinking humor required here.


That’s what I’m talking about……juicy and moist from the brine I used. Wash it down by wallowing it in good olive oil. I ate some smashed carrots and parsnips in butter as an accompaniment. Those tears you see are actually tears of joy. A lot of flavor for little work. Maybe see you again in six months, Chicken Little.


Chestnuts……….open fire not included.


Castagnaccio or chestnut cake with pinenuts and raisins. Rosemary and olive oil too. A peasant’s dessert, if he were so fortunate.


This is my interpretation of the Tuscan classic. Thank you for looking at my story. Yes, please……more grappa. Forza Milan.