the times brought this morning my favorite op-ed columnist, roger cohen, reporting from the town of vernon, some miles northwest of paris. i thoroughly appreciate cohen’s intellect, his world view and his recent rapacious reporting from inside a tumultuous iran. even more because of his sensible approach to a european life style once again presented as the alternative to our so often hassled american existence.
read for yourself, if you like, at:
the approach to food. ah, what revelations. anybody remotely connected with food will know by now the great impact of our very own julia child when repatriated from paris. so, i will simply suggest to enact a law whereby every american child must by the age of twelve have lived a year in europe, preferably italy, or possibly france. such law would enact instantly health care, food appreciation and a laissez-faire sense of understanding a world outside hoboken most definitely absent in our present junior league.
to paraphrase john lennon, imagine...
but to get on from my nerdy notions to the subject of last nights dinner:
these were farmed, which is about all there is these days. it ain’t 'freance', but yes, you can go out and forage for the wild variety, but be forewarned. there is the recent red tide as well as the annual quarantine from may to the end of october. i have taken wild mussels off the coast of santa cruz. it was fun to harvest a bucket of these from the craggy, rocky beach getting sprayed by the gist of the wave at a stormy low tide. and they were certainly free, excepting the warning from the warden over a lack of a ‘mussel’ permit. they proved a slight tougher, but the exciting romance of it all made them taste, well, wild and possibly a wee brinier. those from the store are mellow. i like to steam them in a smokey lapsang souchon tea on a bunch of thyme. all the while shaking the pot, so they cook evenly until they just open. i screen their juice and cut their beard, that hairy growth with which they hold onto their rock, with scissors just before serving.
hen of the woods mushrooms, they do look like a ruffled chicken. wild, they grow in a fan of grayish-brown, overlapping caps, with off-center white stalks branching from a single thick base. alas, from portland’s farmers market, these were not wild, but farmed, it seems a little early for the wild ones. slow roasted under cover in butter and some of the mussel juices. crunchy and of deep mushroom flavor they worked well as foil to voluptuous mussels.
yellow egg tomatoes, slow cooked in the mushroom liquid. these are a very mild variety, fleshy and full of flavor. their skin falls aside as they cook and the resulting liquid, a lovely yellow-mellow of butter, tomato and mussel, juices the dish nicely.
and of course orzo, cooked soft in chicken stock, to the very delight of stephanie.
for a little desert sugared strawberries, with lemon verbena.