Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Notes from Spring

Your regularly-scheduled program of month-old food photos will resume eventually. But Spring has been here in California for months, and I wanted to give you two recent updates.

April Showers

We've had one of the rainier Aprils in recent memory — intermittent showers with sun breaks have been the norm yesterday and today, for example. Riverdog Farm reports that the reservoir has enough water in it that they are guaranteed their full allocation of irrigation, and their river is running high. California is still in drought, of course, but the pressure has eased slightly on the farms this year. In any case, our recent plantings are quite happy.

May Flowers

Our garden, and our farm box, are in full bloom. In our refrigerator we have asparagus and baby artichokes, and in the patio planter we let the broccoli bolt and blossom. The broccoli flowers are sweet with just a hint of brassica, and whereas the stems by now are woody and inedible, the flowers are very tender.

Also blooming are most of the herbs, the sage in particular. Herb blossoms are a true treat. They have some of the same pepper and and flavor as the leaves, but with much more subtle and sweet notes. Moreover, herb flowers are beautiful sprinkled over dishes. In the spring, cook with blossoms.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spinach and onion frittata

Mushroom and green garlic pizza


Our dinner menu from March 7:
  • Miso soup
  • Terriyaki salmon (wild-caught from Alaska, via Berkeley bowl), served over white sticky rice
  • Tuna sashimi (wild-caught, via Berkeley bowl), served over shaved carrots
  • Avocado and green onion rolls
  • Viu Manent Sauvingon Blanc (very dry Chilean wine)


We found ourselves with an aphids problem. Fortunately, the garden store sells tupperwares with 1500 ladybugs for $9.

Stir fry with shrimp, mushrooms, and broccoli

Most of our stir fries start with fresh ginger and garlic sauteed in a light oil; then the veggies and the deveined shrimp. We served this stir fry with brown rice and a French rosé.

Composed salad with beets and deviled eggs

In the fish salad are: spring red onions, capers, purple carrots. The potatoes are boiled and tossed with garlic and dill, as usual. There are two types of beets — golden and the usual deep red — and are prepared the way Alice Waters says: wash but do not peel, remove stems leaving about 1 inch, bake in a covered pan with a splash of water about an hour, plunge in ice water, remove skins and chop, and let sit in vinegar (no oil) and salt for at least half an hour. The deviled eggs are very simple: along with the yolks, the filling has some prepared mustard and some paprika, and that's about it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Long time ago: Soft pretzels

This recipe was dated December 28, 2005.

I started by measuring about a cup of warm water (in, redundantly, a measuring cup), in which to activate the yeast. Just to remind you, it should be warmer than your hand, like you might want to bathe or shower in. But if it feels _hot_ it's too hot. Hot tap water should be right. Anyhoo, I dissolved in one packet of active dry yeast, plus a heaping teaspoon of white sugar and a (1/4 cup) scoop of (white) flour into the water, stirred it up, and let it sit.

While it sat, I ate an orange and then put about four or five scoops of flour into a large mixing bowl, along with a large handful of salt. It's much more salt than you'd put in bread, although ultimately maybe a teaspoon or two, and enough that you probably don't want to add it to the yeast water (it wasn't so much that it'd kill the yeast outright, but it'd slow it down). Mixed the flour and salt, and then walked downstairs and then upstairs, by which time the yeast water had grown a nice, vigorous froth on top. I poured it into the flour, and mixed a little. I then added some oil: a little sesame oil (not enough to over power, but a small splash), and a fair amount of vegetable oil (a large splash or two). I then proceeded to knead in another five or so (could have been more, I didn't count) scoops of flour. Don't put in too much flour: the dough should still be tacky and very malleable, just not real _sticky_, so that you can actually knead it without it sticking more to your hands than to itself.

The dough is a little over-yeasted, and should sit for a bit --- I gave it half an hour. Preheat the oven a little less than 400 degrees. The dough came nowhere close to doubling, but it doesn't really have to. Punch it down, and break or cut off chunks, maybe two-inch diameter, to make into your pretzels (I like my large pretzels pretty small). I rolled them out just in the air --- no floured surface, etc., for me (and I don't want to add more flour that way either) --- rolling a chunk between my hands until it was maybe ten inches long and a centimeter in diameter (mixing units is how I think). Then I set it on a temporary tray (one of my cookie sheets) lined with saran wrap, in the right shape (place the middle on the saran, cross the ends about an inch in on each, and then fold the oval back on itself).

After finishing all the pretzels, I let them have their second rise while I leisurely retrieved a saucepan and filled it halfway with water. Dissolve into it a couple chunks of baking soda (total a little more than a teaspoon), and heat it to boiling. I also lined a cookie tray with fancy heat-proof baking paper (I highly recommend getting a roll of the stuff, although it's a little spendy). You should be able to peel the saran wrap off the bottoms of the pretzels without mucking up their shapes, and drop them in the water. Each should puff up a little as it starts to float: don't leave them in to long, -- if it's puffy and floating, it's done, and can be removed with a flat spatula and placed on the baking-paper-lined cookie tray. Then lightly sprinkle the boiled pretzels with sea salt (yes, even more salt), and bake in a preheated oven maybe 12 minutes. The pretzels won't quite look done, but it's amazing the color change they go through as they sit cooling off (from white to yellow). Once reasonably cool, peel from baking paper.

Enjoy! At my sizes, makes just shy of 20 pretzels.

Incidentally, bagels are about the same: make a dough (although not as much salt), rise etc. essentially like bread, then shape (bagels you can just take balls and poke a hole in them, and then stretch into the right size), second rise, short bath, and bake. I should try making bagels sometime.

Long time ago: Gluten Free Baking

These are some old recipes from college, dated October and November, 2005. I had a vegan housemate with Celiac disease, and so learned to cook gluten-free.

Vegan Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

This recipe is based largely on the ingredients available in my kitchen at school, and on a couple recipes from online. It turned out quite well; I now have a sense of how xanthan behaves, and next week will probably try making GF buckwheat bread.

Preheat oven 375°F. Oil a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Combine:
  • 2 cups white rice flour
  • 1/3 cup soy milk powder
  • 1.5 tsp xanthan gum (I used only 1 tsp, which worked fine, but I think 1.5 will work better)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy lecithin, mixed with 3 Tbsp boiling water, or other GF replacer for 1 to 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 3 cups (roughly three) grated zucchini (I used only 2, which was good, but not amazingly zucchini-y)
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1/2 cup currants (optional; raising would work too, esp raisins sliced in half so they don't get all weird when baked)
Bake in greased loaf pan 1 hr to 75 minutes, or until a skewer can go in and come out without residue. I baked at 350° and needed upwards on 75 minutes, checking every fifteen minutes after the first 40 or so had gone by. So perhaps 350 for an hour is all it takes, or perhaps the oven should have been hotter.

Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Bread

Preheat oven 375°F. Combine:
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 1/3 cup soy milk powder
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water or chilled coffee
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp lecithin, dissolved in boiling water
  • 1/2 cup jam (blackberry, etc.)
When mixed, oil a pan and dust with cocoa powder. Then briefly stir into batter/dough
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
and pour mix into pan. Bake 45 min or until done.

Vegan Gluten-Free Brownies

Preheat oven 325°F. Puree until smooth:
  • 1/4 cup firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup (vanilla) soymilk
and pour into mixing bowl. Add
  • 2 Tbsp blackberry (or other fruit) jam
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • (1 tsp lecithin dissolved in 1 tsp boiling water)
and mix with electric mixer (I used the kitchenaid with the whisk for everything except pureeing in the blender). In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I used 2 parts raw organic white and 1 part brown)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (could go even to 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup white rice flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • (a pinch of xanthan gum)
  • a pinch of baking powder (the less baking powder, the more fudgy will be the brownies)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
and beat into wet ingredients. Also add
  • 1 cup chocolate chips.
  • (1/2 cup chopped walnuts)
Pour into a well-greased pan (a four-times recipe filled an 11x14 inch pan) and bake 325°F for one hour or until done. (I baked at 375, and ended up slightly burning the outside before the inside was completely done, but it worked fine, and took about 40 minutes.) Enjoy, and amaze your friends.

Long time ago: Greek Dinner for Columbae

I was recently going through some very old posts at a different web journal. I came across this collection of recipes, and I do not think I have posted the here. The following is from May 14, 2005.

At a recent bookstore sale, I picked up two vegetarian cookbooks, each for $6 (one normally goes for $13, the other for $28). The cheaper one looks especially like a keeper: called Vegetarian's A to Z Guide to Fruits & Vegetables, it provides a number of simple but yummy-looking recipes for each vegetable (the veggies are alphabetized by name), as well as nutrition information for each recipe and discussion of the vegetable's properties, time of year, location, storage, etc. I can imagine living near a local organic farm and subscribing to a weekly produce box that would provide me with seasonal produce with, at any given time, a small selection. In such a situation, a book like this would be a lifesaver: we're eating cucumbers for a week? Fine, let's see what we can do with cucumbers. The farmers decide to grow Batavian endive? We can look that up too.

In theory, Columbae would opperate that way, and we do try to keep to local seasonal produce. That said, I've been looking forward to preparing a traditional (well, with vegan modificaitons) Greek feast tomorrow, and although we did get baby spinach from the local organic supplier, I wanted celery, cucumber, grapes, all of which are seasonal in mid- to late summer. Our produce manager, however, is currently my most favoritest person in the world: she got me a couple heads of celery, a big box of grapes, and a big box of cucumbers, all conventional. So I'll have to wash everything, and the cucumbers are probably waxed, which is a shame, because the skins are the healthiest part, but still.

I have filo dough, which I need to remember to move to the fridge tonight to defrost, and I have my veggies and recipes. I need to soak the beans, too, and look up the spices suggested for apple rather than pear filling for the desert (pears aren't in season, whereas we have a hella lot of apples, but apples aren't as delicate, so require more spicing). I don't get olives --- dry goods and dairy came through for me with the feta but not with everything --- but oh, well. It will be good.

Soup: Fassolada me Spanaki Serves 6-8

Soak for 4 hrs, drain, boil, and drain
  • 1.5 cup dried cannellini
or open
  • 2 cans beans

In a large saucepan on medium heat, saute in plenty of olive oil for 30 minutes
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely diced

Add, and bring to poin, cover, and simmer
  • 4 sprigs celery leaves (optional)
  • 2 large cloves garlid, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp dried thyme (and/or greek oregano)
  • 1/2 a medium bunch of fresh parsely, coarsely chopped
  • the beans, if used dried
  • 8 cups water or light vegetable stock
  • 1 large can diced tomatos (or skin and dice three large tomatoes and let sit salted 15 minutes)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste diluted in 3 Tbsp water
  • 8 oz spinach, cut in thin ribbons

Simmer perhaps 20-30 minutes, adding the tomato paste and spinach in the last 5-10 minutes. Stir in
  • another 1/2 bunch of parsely
  • a little more oil

Serve hot, with
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
sprinkled over each bowl.

Bulgari Pilafi Serves 4

Heat gently in large saucepan
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
and saute until translucent
  • 1 large onion

Break up with fingers into roughly 2-inch pieces
    1/4 cup thin spaghetti, vermicelli, or angel's hair
and add to onion. Continue stirring until pasta is pale golden and arromatic, 2-3 minutes.
Soak for a few minutes to enlarge, then rinse in a fine sieve under running water
  • 2 1/4 cup coarse bulgar, picked clean
and add to pan, stirring, and add
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable stock (scale sublinearly)

Cover and simmer gently 7-8 minutes, until mixture looks almost dry. Cover with cloth, replace lid, and let stand off heat at least 10-15 minutes, or up to 1 hr.

Spanakopita Fills 13x15 lasagna pan, enough for 8 people as a main course

Make sure to have left the filo dough out to defrost to room temp 5 hrs before use.
Chop into uniform 1/4-1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large onion
and saute until clead. Add
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • 2 lbs fresh or frozen spinach
and saute until limp.
Mash to chunks less than 1/2 inch
  • 16 oz firm water-packed tofu (frozen and defrosted if you have time)
and add to pan, along with
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tpsp oregano
Remove from heat and drain excess water. Let cool slightly.
Preheat oven 350°F, oil a large lasagna pan, and get ready to work with filo dough: as the dough will dry quickly, don't open the package until everything is ready. Have 3-4 people working. Each sheet should be lightly oiled (so keep a brush and a bowl of oil handy) after it's placed in the the pan, and someone should keep a clean, barely moist towel over the unused dough. Anyhoo, when ready, cut open
  • 1 pound filo dough
and place individual oiled sheets, with edges hanging over edge of pan, in varying directions. Use a third of the dough (roughly 6 sheets), then fill in half the spinach, then a third of the dough, then the other half spinach, then the last third of the dough. Fold edges over or in, make sever slashes through the top of the pastry to the filling, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hr, until golden brown.

Apple filo strudel makes 3 rolls (?)

Preheat oven 350°F.
Wash, peel, core, and dice
  • 10 medium apples
to get about 14 cups. Mix in
  • 6 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 8 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 cups walnuts, chopped or cuised
  • 2-3 Tpsb white sugar
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar

Prepare to work with filo dough (see above), and stack 4 sheets, individually oiled. Spoon some filling along one long edge, leaving a 2-inch boarder. Fold filo dough over filling, tuck in ends, and roll up. Brush with canola oil. Place rolls seam-side down on greased baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. Slice into 1.5 inch pieces half way through roll. Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Greek Salad

We will be using
  • mixed greens
  • celery
  • onion
  • shredded carrot
  • grapes
  • feta on the side

Traditionally a summer salad would also include
  • kalamata olives or possibly capers
  • tomato
  • possibly bell pepper
whereas winter salads are normally cabbage-based. Dressing is always olive oil mixed with lemon juice; one would normally place slices of feta on top of the salad, sprinkle everything with dried oregano, and then pour the oild and lemon juice on top, but I'm going to use crumbled feta and mix the oregano into the dressing. Grapes wouldn't normally be in the salad, but I don't get olives, and it will be yummy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saag Paneer and Aloo Matar

Use lots of sour cream and lots of curry powder. If you cannot find Paneer, the Greek cheese Haloumi handles heat very well. But it is expensive, and kind of too yummy to coat with so much spice. In any case, the dinner was great.

Rigatoni with red sauce

The red sauce consists mostly of aromatics (leeks, fennel, etc), and canned and sun-dried tomatoes. Around this time, we also bought a new bookshelf, which lives in the dining area:


Occasionally I find a picture in my camera for which I have no recollection. We had this pizza on the first of March.

First broccoli harvest

We let the broccoli go a bit too long before harvesting — when it starts to shoot up, it gets a bit woody. But what you miss out in tenderness you make up for in freshness, well worth the trade.

Butternut squash lasagna

Begin by preparing all the components of the lasagna. Make a hearty pasta dough with semolina flour, egg, and a little salt and water, and roll it pretty thin and hang to dry. Meanwhile, halve and deseed a butternut squash, and set it baking face-down in a little olive oil in the oven. In the food processor, first make a "pesto" of hazelnuts and fresh sage (and maybe some garlic). Then combine the cheeses: shredded mozzarella, grated asiago, and ricotta. Bring a large pot of salt water to a boil, and cook the lasagna noodles one at a time, as needed, for just one minute each.

Assemble the lasagna in layers as you always would, letting the noodles hang over the sides of the pan. When you are done, trim away the excess noodles. If you like, you should also make a quick bechamel sauce — heat butter and whisk in some flour to cook, then whisk in milk, salt, and nutmeg to the desired consistency — and pour over the lasagna. Bake about an hour.

Sturgeon, baked potato, and broccoli

If like us you do not each beef, a very close approximation is steaks of sturgeon from the Columbia river. B cooked these in the broiler with minced garlic, steamed the broccoli, and baked a potato for each of us. Very little is better than a baked potato with copious amounts of sour cream and fresh parsley.


There are infinite variations on steamed mussels. We cooked white onion in butter, added white wine and cream, and then mixed in a little salt, some curry powder, and chives. Pour over steamed mussels and serve with bread and a well-chilled white wine.

Pizza with mozzarella and tomato sauce

On February 24, B made a classic American pizza. The sauce consisted of drained canned tomatoes and garlic, blended in the Cuisinart. The cheese was mozzarella. The chef was super hot. The dinner was wonderful.

Curried halibut and cauliflower

We cooked both the halibut (broiled) and the cauliflower (stir-fried in the wok) in the same spices: minced garlic, minced ginger root, and minced turmeric root. Using fresh spices is wonderful, and the turmeric turns everything a beautiful yellow (and provides a welcome flavor compliment to the mild heat from the garlic and ginger).

Salade Niçoise

As you well know, I have been slow to post pictures of dinners. On the 21st of February, we had a traditional salade Niçoise, pictured above. The lettuce was dressed in a sherry vinaigrette with garlic. The potatoes were washed and halved, boiled ten minutes, and then dressed with olive oil and mashed garlic and dill seed. Butterfish was broiled unseasoned, and then made into a fish salad with red onion, carrot, celery, and olive oil. Hard boiled egg, niçoise olives and prepared anchovy fillet finishes the presentation.


In a previous post, I mentioned some of the cooking that I've done while here at home. I've also had a great time helping my mom and sister get everything ready to move the chickens outside. Chickens? Why, yes, my family bought four adorable chicks last month, for eggs when they come of age. In the meantime, the young hens are very cute, and we're basically done putting together their chicken run. You can see videos of the hens on my sister's YouTube channel.

This morning's local paper, however, makes it clear that my family is simply participating in a national wave of urban chicken farming.

Pots de creme de chocolat

We followed the recipe from Joy of Cooking.

Coyote Point Picnic

I've home for a very short weekend visit right now, and I forgot my camera. Last night we made catfish (breaded a fried: mix flour, garlic salt, paprika, and cumin; coat fish fillets in flour mixture; mix up an egg and coat fish in egg; coat again in flour; heat oil in a pan; cook fish on each side) with tartar sauce (Wildwood garlic aioli, minced capers, minced celery, minced red bell pepper, minced chives). Tonight we will have pizza.

The best dinner I've had in the last few days, however, was my picnic with B before the flight. If you ever find yourself flying out of SFO in the early evening, I highly recommend bringing a picnic and heading to Coyote Point Recreation Area, a small park maintained by San Mateo County, only nine miles south of the airport (fifteen minutes if you avoid the freeway). The park is beautiful, and there is a very fun small museum.

I did all the cooking for the dinner the night before, and packed the cooler in the morning. The dinner consisted of separate salad dishes to have together. We have:
  • Lettuce salad with shaved fennel and a light red wine vinaigrette.
  • Beets, cooked the Alice Waters way. Wash but do not peel beets, and keep about 1 inch of stem attached. Place in a covered baking dish with a splash of water. Bake for at least an hour. Move beets to an ice water bath, let cool, and then the skins will slough off easily. Quarter the beets, sprinkle with salt, and douse liberally in vinegar (I used a mix of balsamic, to highlight the sweetness, and some red wine vinegar, for the acidity). Let marinate at least an hour, or overnight in the fridge.
  • A fish salad, which was the highlight of the meal. Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a very large pot, with a colander set in as a steamer. Steam a fillet of rockfish until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Break the fish apart into large pieces, and pick out any lingering bones. Meanwhile, coarsely chop fennel and spring red onions. Mix together the fish, the vegetables, and some capers, and maybe just a touch of olive oil, but not too much. Depending on how many capers you include, you probably do not need any salt or vinegar. When the salad marinates overnight in the fridge, the fish ends up picking up a wonderful fennel flavor.
The colors in the salad were wonderful: the fattier parts of the fish and also the red onions pick up the same reds and purples as the beets, and the greens and whites pair nicely, for a very attractive plate. To finish the meal, we had baguette and a brie, and carrots as a pallet cleanser. As with most picnics, serve this one with your favorite red wine.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hearty Italian soup

It's been pouring here non-stop, perfect soup weather. Our original plan for tonight was "mushroom and barley soup," to which we ten decided to add tomatoes and beans for a nice Minestrone-style stew.

Oh, and this recipe is going up immediately, because we forgot to take photos of dinner. I have a hard enough time remembering what we made based on two-month-old pictures, and by the time I get to posting the last few meals (hopefully soon) I won't remember we made tonight's dinner at all.

This is a "quick" soup: no stock. Begin cooking about ninety minutes before dinner, but you'll have at least an hour of simmering when you can go do other things.

Heat a large splash of olive oil at the bottom of your favorite soup pot. Add salt and begin sauteing:
  • 3 spring red onions, cleaned and diced
  • 1 spring garlic, washed, cleaned and diced
  • 1 clove dried garlic, minced
  • 4 small carrots, washed well and diced
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs each rosemary and savory, stems removed and minced
Stirring, let the mire poix saute until the onions are tender. Then add
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1 lb crimini mushrooms, washed and halved
  • a bit more salt
and cook on medium, stirring, until the mushrooms have just begun to wilt. Then add
  • 1 large can tomatoes
  • 1 small can your favorite white beans (we used soy beans, since it's all we had)
  • 2 quarts water
  • yet more salt
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered for at least an hour.

Right before serving, stir in a small splash of vinegar. Sprinkle the bowls with minced parsley, and serve with a crusty bread.

Friday, April 9, 2010


A good fish stew, and Cioppino is no exception, includes lots of kinds of fish. So go to the market and get a little of everything: clams, mussels, shrimp, white fish. Even earlier, begin collecting scraps for a fish broth.

Begin by creating the base for the soup. In the pan you'll cook the soup in, saute a mire poix — onions, celery, lots of garlic, and shallots if you have them — in lots of olive oil. Also dissolve into the olive oil a can of anchovy fillets (washed and deboned). Once the onions are translucent, add a large can of diced tomatoes, and start to reduce the mixture. Meanwhile, in your largest pot, cook a fish stock: crab and shrimp shells, trimmings from earlier fish dinners, and the ends of leeks, celery, and onions.

When the stock has cooked an hour, strain it and add to the mirepoix. By now, you should have prepped the fresh seafood: scrub the bivalves, devein the shrimp, cut the fish into one-inch-thick strips. Bring the soup to a boil and add the seafood. Poach everything about ten minutes, until the bivalves have opened and the shrimp and fish are opaque.

Adjust the salt, and serve with a crusty Italian bread. If you're here in Berkeley, I highly recommend the olive bread from the Farmers' Market for a meal like this. A well-chilled wine completes this hearty dinner.

Sturgeon with potatoes and broccoli


It seems that this is my only photo from dinner on February 17. I think the pizza has spinach and parmesan on it, and I think the crust is brushed with garlic olive oil. But otherwise, your guess is as good as mine. It was delicious — I remember that.

Seared tuna with asparagus and potatoes

Pink salad dinner

We didn't quite have this beautiful pink dinner on Valentine's Day: we had it on the 15th instead. We peeled and chopped the beets and baked them covered with a splash of water until tender. Then we tossed the beets with red-wine vinegar and the rest of the salad: fresh lettuce, blue cheese, walnuts, croutons (stale baguette, cubed and tossed with olive oil, salt, and dried herbs, and baked in the broiler), and some minced shallot. Serve with a rosé. (And be sure to find rosés that are not too sweet. The Red Bicyclette is a good choice, but most cheap California rosés and "white zinfandels" taste like bubblegum.)

Squid-ink spaghetti with crab and leeks

I love the look of squid-ink pasta. Be aware that the squid-ink does impart a fishy flavor to the noodles, so serve with shellfish and a well-chilled dry pinot gris. If you like cheese on your pasta, and who doesn't, be sure it does not overpower the crab: the salt in the Locatelli pecorino romano nicely complements the sea flavor (and prevents you from using too much), but I wouldn't use anything too sharp and rich.