I’m not quite sure where I first ran into Brad Greenhill, but I do know Shana introduced us.  In the period of recovery from my accident, I was struck by the idea that I wanted to throw a big thank you dinner for the many really wonderful friends who had helped me through the roughest period and Shana said she’d like to cohost and (bright girl) “we should get my friend Brad to cook. He’s doing some of the best cooking in town.” Sold! Next thing I knew, we were chatting over my dining room table, talking plates and counting vegetarians. And then next thing I know, Brad was standing in my kitchen on a Saturday night, calm and collected and turning out a miracle of a dinner for 18 people. Ok, there may have been a drop or two of sweat on his brow but in spite of that he produced CARROT SOUP with hazlenut, nigella, yogurt, and mint,CECI BEANS dressed with sesame, jalepeno, meyer lemon, scallion, and OMG RAVIOLI short rib, rojo (Brad’s patented red sauce), fiore sardo and basil and DEVIL’S CHICKEN aleppo (shown, in all its glory, above), salsa verde, warm bread salad and OLIVE OIL CAKE with a citrus glaze. The guests were generous in bringing wine, and there was good food and friendly conversation until all hours, and though I felt there was little I could do to repay the amazing generosity of my friends during my time of need, I ended up feeling like dinner by Brad was a pretty good start. Love and a fuly laden table . . . they do go together, don’t they?

Since that first meal, I’ve made a small hobby of stalking Brad’s cooking. and luckily he hasn’t made it or himself hard to find. He’s been doing “Pop-up” dinners around town, located in some interesting venues and full of small and tasty surprises. You can find out about them at his website,  (one coming up soon at the late. lamented Jefferson Market)where he is also kind enough to share a few recipes including one for that trademark rojo

We joined several friends at his Jefferson Market dinner in April, where we ate:

pig face pâté, pickled roots, sriracha aioli, cilantro

fiddleheads, pea tendrils, anchovy

green garlic, aleppo, lemon oil, crumbs

apple, celery root, hay, ‘shrooms

ewe’s milk, ramps, black pepper

braised coronas, arugula, lemon, horseradish

salt caramel, brown butter, sage

 And drank and chatted with a room ull of loud and happy townies and felt, ourselves, glad to live in Ann Arbor where such things are possible. Another night in April, we went to dinner at 327 Braun Court, a space in Ann rbor new to me, as was much of the food, but in both cases I fervently hope those first weren’t lasts. More onsen eggs please!
The “About Brad” section o his web site tells us:”Brad has been cooking professionally for over 13 years. He first cut his chops in various Ann Arbor restaurants before joining his friend Michael Berardino in the two-man kitchen team behind Carmen, in Boston’s North End. During his tenure, the restaurant’s cuisine was featured in The New York Times, Bon Appetit and Gourmet in addition to receiving two “Best of Boston” awards. Over the last seven years he has chosen to work under the radar: hosting underground dining events and catering for small, private parties and weddings. His influences are the cuisines of Italian-America, Southern bbq, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean and McDonald’s. (Can’t wait to see what he does with the big Mac concept).Brad’s dinners are usually served in two seatings. If you want to linger late, you are encouraged to sign up for the later seating.  Tickets are available online and are one price and have the option of beverage pairings (more on that icoming up).So, great fun for me at these dinners has been partaking of the cocktail pairings. Although I have known and loved wine pairings for a long time now, I had never considered cocktail pairings, and I now see they give a little more room to roam, and a bit  more chance for surprise, than wine. The mixologists Brad has hooked up with have done some lovely things with herbs, bitters and fruit juices. They make the food seem even better.Which is a tall order as it’s pretty darn good, cocktails aside.  The thing I want to call out especially about Brad’s cooking is the variety and novelty of the flavors. Consider the ASPARAGUSwith morels, kerisik, mint, and lime from the Braun Court dinner.  At one point there was a conversation at our table that went: (mouth full of asparagus bite) “What’s going on in here?” and (second mouth also full) “I don’t know, but I really like it.” A little while later, I noticed both my table and Shana’s had diners studying their i-phones as we looked up new ingredients like kerisik (coconut butter, turns out). I want to call Brad’s food challenging, but I’m afraid that might suggesst its hard to eat, which it isn’t all. It’s challenging in the sense of not being familiar. The tastes are new and that’s why I love them, and I venture even some of the most jaded palates will feel the same.
a perk of patronizing Brad’s dinners is that he’s doing some nice work with other local businesses. He sources wine from Everyday wine and attractive floral decorations from Pot and Box, and of course he’s giving exposure to those venues like Braun Court and The Jefferson Market. Eat good food and dsupport our local folks at the same time. Bonus!In an email chat bout his start in cooking, Brad reminisced a bit about his time in Boston  and then said “After about two years there I began getting burned out and queestioned whether or not I wanted to be or am a chef. I felt a bit of pressure, be it societal or how I was brought up that i needed to be more than that in life. In those days being a cook / chef didn’t have the “cool” cultural cache and level of career acceptance it does now. . . . right about that time  books like Soul of the Chef, Kitchen Confidential and the Food Network started to bloom. Anyway I left the business and started my current web business. I vowed one day I’d be back but on my own terms and with my own restaurant / bar, which is something I’ve wanted to have since I was in college.” Me. I’m glad those questions had an answer that led to my eating Brad’s food, and I kinda hope the restaurant works out in Ann rbor, so I get to keep doing so.


Mint MniHello there. Long time. Or, as one regular reader said to me “again withe fava beans.” Yes, the favas have hung out on the home page a long time. Things happen, you know? Like, this happened: a little over a year ago, I woke up on a beautiful spring morning and had my usual Saturday morning consultation with my domestic and cooking partner. “shall we go to the market?” — “Yes! it’s spring.” — “What shall we eat tonight?” –“How about grilled duck breasts and asparagus?” — “Yes! It’s spring!” — “Shall we ride bikes?” — “Yes! It’s spring!” So, filled with the joy of the season, we hopped on the bikes and headed toward Kerrytown and to the Saturday market. We had just turned a corner at good speed when my pedal clipped the curb and, seconds later, my bike went over and do did I. One damaged brain, one snapped clavicle, one shattered elbow, one ambulance ride and emergency surgery later, I, well, almost died. And then there were weeks and months of almost dying and recovering from almost dying and in that time, no cooking and certainly no blogging. One of the other victims of my accident was my appetite and for weeks I could not eat without being ill. This, despite friends and family ferrying me food (thank you Shana!) to balance the hospital grub.
Flash forward a year. It’s spring again, and I am whole and intact, (if a bit slower than I used to be) and hopeful. While I was gone, my much loved blogging partners went on living and living well but not blogging (I like to think they just couldn’t do it without me). Our co-conspirator, Anne, moved to a Big City on the East Coast, where we like to think of her cooking with exotic ingredients and enjoying fabulous restauraunt meals. Shana and I had a long confab over drinks a couple of weeks ago and talked about how we both missed the old blog and how it even seemed like some readers missed us. Conclusion: “let’s try again!” So, we will, though it may be a slow road back. I think we’ll remain three for now, although there are only two of us (Anne, we miss you). Who knows, a third may find her way to us,

So, what’s cooking? Well, last Saturday, on a beautiful spring morning, my domestic partner and I decided it was time to celebrate life and explore the meal not eaten, so we headed up to the market (on foot this time!), stocked up on duck breast and some of the season’s first aspargus (oh yeah, and a great bottle of rioja) and came home to cook and shake our fists at mortality.

The accident also took out my left aka dominant aka chopping hand, so there’s a bit of a crimp in my cooking style, but I can still turn out a meal, especially when i can dragoon someone else (see domestic partner, above) to chop onions. I assume most of you could figure out a grilled duck breast and some blanched asparagus, but I did want to pass on a recipe and praise for a mustard mint sauce for the duck because a) I wouldn’t have thought of it on my own b) it is a bright and interesting combination of flavors, c) it was yummy and d) if your garden is anything like mine, the mint has taken on an exaggerated life of its own and must be eaten before overgrowing the house.

This recipe comes by way of the almost-always-helpful-about-meat-Bobby-Flay. It’s recommended as a father’s day dinner.  We didn’t wait that long, and although it would be a fine way to spoil a dad, I recommend that you don’t either. Why deprive yourself?  While normally, I would add helpful commentary, I’ll paste this in as is because we followed the letter of the instructions and it was both easy and verty tasty:

Grilled Duck Breast with Mustard Mint Sauce

Serves: 4

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 duck breasts, extra fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Whisk together the mustard, horseradish, mint and salt and pepper in a small bowl, cover and let sit at room temperature while you cook the duck.

2. Heat grill to medium. Season duck on both sides with salt and pepper. Place a drip pan on top of the coals and fill halfway with water. Place the breasts on the grill, over the pan, skin-side down and grill until golden brown and lots of the fat has rendered, about 8-10 minutes. Flip over and continue grilling until cooked to medium doneness. Remove from the grill and let rest 5 minutes. Cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Drizzle with some of the mustard sauce.

Now go pick some of that mint and enjoy.  Much has happened in Ann Arbor food while I’ve been out of circulation, and I have Things to Say. I hope I get to share them with you soon,

Two summers ago, my co-blogger Shana posted a brief photo essay and set of instructions on “what to do with squash blossoms.” Let me tell you, that’s the post that keeps on giving. Even in those times when our blog has been most neglected, readers flock to this post, and Shana recently graphed the seasonal trend on squash blossom post viewing . . . when late June hits, the curve goes vertical.  I cook squash blossoms about once a summer myself, and have returned to Shana’s guide each time. Thinking about squash blossoms helps me to remember that one thing a good food blogger can do is give sensible advice on working with interesting foods that we (or at least many of us) didn’t grow up with.

The first time I ever heard of fava beans was in The Silence of the Lambs (search for fava in the memorable quotes — not likely to inspire hunger). I later learned that the British call them broad beans, which sounds much plainer and more boarding school than favas. I never actually tried them until Anne, our sometimes third on the blog, made them for a spring feast a few years back (sauteed with morels and fiddleheads, mmm),and I was immediately hooked on their delicate bean flavor and their tenderness. Since then, like squash blossom preparation, fava beans cooking is an annual ritual around here, and just as ritualistically, I scurry for the internet, trying to recall just what I’m supposed to do with the darn things (there’s like two layers to remove, right??). So in the spirit of squash blossoms (and future reference for myself), I offer a guide to coaxing out the wonders of the fresh fava.

Favas first need to be shelled. This is a fine job for small hands (those in the picture are four and three-quarter year old hands, so favas are not quite as giant as they appear). Simply pull the string along the seam and squeeze gently to pop open the pods, then run your thumb along the pod to loosen the beans.

When you are finished, your overflowing quart of favas will be much reduced, but still ample. You are, however, only halfway done. That thick light green skin needs to be removed so you can get to the heart of fava goodness.

Blanch the beans in boiling water for about a minute, then drain and run under cold water. The beans will now be loosened inside their outer skin and a bit of bright green will often protrude from one end. If you’re fussy you can use a knife, but I find it easiest just to slip my fingernail inside the slit and then squeeze to pop out the bean. Squeeze gently, as the beans can fly vast distances (or at least a foot or two) under pressure. This will amuse four and three-quarter year olds for short period of time but they will soon find this step tedious and will wander away. You will need to call in some older reinforcements (see fifty three year old hands above). When you are finished, your supply of favas will look smaller still. I find a quart really only enough to feed three or four fava lovers as a light side dish. Or me, if no one is looking, and I don’t cook anything else for dinner.

Once you have your fresh favas all shelled and peeled, there are many things you can do with them (purees, dips, a quick saute with pancetta, toss them in olive oil and add some shavings of pecorino cheese . . .). Some recipes will tell you that you need to cook the shelled beans until tender, for as many as fifteen minutes, but I find the heat of the blanching is more than enough to cook fresh beans. My current favorite fava dish is this simple preparation with mint:

Dice a small red onion and mince a good handful of fresh mint.  Warm some olive oil over medium heat, add the onions and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the fava beans and heat until warm through. Toss in the mint and fold through the beans, then turn off the heat and add a good sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

This year, we’ve eaten favas and mint with smoked duck and grilled lamb chops and those were both Good Things. But all on their own, these beans are a pretty Good Thing as well. It’s a small bowl of goodness for rather a lot of work, but one full of midsummer flavor.

The Accidental Pasta

Sometimes I overestimate my talents, my improvisational flare, my ability to combine a few fine ingredients with a little je ne sais quoi and produce something that can be quite respectably called dinner. One night a couple of weeks ago, I found myself alone with young Nick with dinner coming on and not a menu plan in site. So I parked the boy in front of a bowl of butter noodles and peas, poured myself a gin and tonic and rummaged in the fridge.

I emerged from this hunt with full hands and a smug sense of self-satisfaction.  Fresh bitter greens? Check. Egg delivered from the farm the day before? Yup. And some really creamy feta and a bit of shallot. Everything shaping up nicely. Saute the greens with the shallot, stir in a little of the chili sauce, fold in the feta and slide a softly fried egg on top.  Great building blocks. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, maybe my confidence was the gin and tonic talking.  Because when I sat down and tried it, the result of this experiment was just, well, weird. The greens cooked down too quickly into mush. The sweet of the chili sauce battled with the saltiness of the feta rather than balanced it.  The egg was too soft, even for me who will pretty much slurp eggs raw out of the shell, and the chili sauce crept into the yoke in a bloodily unappealing way.  Three quarters of the way through, I pushed the plate aside and scarfed the last of the cold butter noodles from Nick’s Spider Man plate and inwardly browbeat my cock-sure culinary self “Thought you could cook, huh Maria?” I vowed never to stray from my (many) cookbooks or the internet again. Improvisation was dead to me.

Until the other night, when dinner came again (it inexorably does that, doesn’t it?), the fridge was full of unused farm share, I had no plan, and Something Had To Be Cooked. This time my hunting and gathering expedition through the kitchen yielded rather a lot of spinach, a big bunch of spring onions, a small clutch of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, and two tissue thin slices of prosciutto hanging around because they didn’t fit on a pizza. And, of course, penne, because I firmly believe penne should be omnipresent.

So,  I started a pot of water boiling and while I was waiting, cleaned the spinach really well (two more rinses than really I was willing to put up with), ripped off the tough stems and tore it into pieces a normal size mouth could accommodate.  Then I sliced up the spring onions. When the water came to a boil, I tossed in the pasta (I know; you know how to cook pasta, I can spare you the details) and filmed the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil. When the pasta had been cooking about five minutes, I tossed the spinach in with it, and paused for a moment to marvel at the immediate collapse of the spinach and to feel grateful for all the room in the refrigerator previously occupied by spinach that could now be filled with more interesting things like berries. Then I slid the onions into the frying pan and cooked them over medium heat, while turning my attention to slicing the sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto into thin strips, then tipped them in with onions. After about eleven minutes of pasta cooking, I drained the pasta and spinach, holding back a slim cup of the pasta water. Then the pasta and spinach went into the frying pan, got moistened with the cooking water, and the whole thing got a good shake and a moment to think about its new identity.

After that moment, it went into a pretty bowl, received a good grating of parmesan cheese and was promptly devoured. It had moments of comfort food, leavened with a little sophistication from the prosciutto and tomatoes, and made virtuous (without pain) by the presence of the spinach. Fine ingredients on hand and a little skill? What could possibly go wrong? Why nothing at all.

Make this. Or riff on the theme. Mix it up. You won’t be sorry. Just maybe avoid feta cheese and sweet chili sauce in combination.

So I’m back to extolling the virtues of a good pantry, a little ingenuity and the improvisational kitchen life. While trying to keep in mind that I’ll be humbled by that life once in a while, and that’s okay, because it’s good to be reminded that improvisation is not the same as haphazard carelessness, even though a gin and tonic might blur the lines between the two. And for such humbling occasions, one should always keep butter and cheese on hand, as well as penne.

Baby Steps

Testing. Test 1, 2, 3. Hello? Hello! Anyone home?

So, the blog got all big in my mind while I was gone. What could I possibly have to say to fill its vast, empty space? I got a new job which requires, um, rather a lot of attention. And time on email. And time on planes. Because of which,  I went to a whole bunch of places. There was also some pleasurable gallivanting around the southwest in an old VW van packed with kids and dog and an increasing amount of desert sand. None of which has much to do with food, although some good food happened along the way (elk! Utah goat cheese! Indian food in Vancouver!).

In the food department, I made a lot of bread in the weekend cracks of time. I got better and better at making chicken broth from the once a month chicken carcasses subsequent to devouring an Old Pine Farm chicken.  I tried my hand at sole meuniere and learned that it’s true that mushrooms are better cooked at very high heat. I mined the freezer for pesto and tomato sauce lingering from last summer. But writing about any of these seemed like tossing pebbles down the well. The most I could hope for was to catch the echo back a few pings from the big, quiet darkness.

But, you know, it’s spring.  There are flowers and puppies and new beginnings and all that. There also seem to be any number of babies around, born to friends and colleagues and all alive with that densely compacted promise intrinsic to newborns, and soon to be toddlers thinking about trying out their amusing and intriguing legs.  So, in the spirit of spring and of first, fumbling steps, I’ve been trying to note the potential inherent in small things: the spindly stems on the ugly plant in the back yard I suddenly realize is rhubarb, the fat, fleshy mushrooms growing in my compost, my son’s awkward fingers on his guitar strings that now and then suggest real music, the plain swath of dough that blossoms with heat into sweet and fragrant pastry.

And so, back to some words here and there about what goes on in my own kitchen and all the other kitchens of this pleasant Midwestern town.  Since I’ve been gone we’ve gained Cecelia’s pastries and Tomuken Noodle Bar and locally made Grapenuts at the Farmer’s Market and lord knows what else I’ve failed to notice while my eyes have been glued to the computer screen and my shoulders have been hunched up around my ears.

So I’m pulling my head up, looking around and taking a baby step. Perhaps from small posts, great blogs grow. Tonight for dinner there was spinach salad with radishes and lardons and a plate of asparagus on the side, with a board of bread (see cracks of weekend time above) and two kinds of Michigan cheese (and some frankly and deliciously imported salami from the Zingerman’s warehouse sale).  Tonight the air was heavy with the scent of lilac.  Tomorrow, there’s dinner at Pot and Box.  Next week this food blog might even have a real recipe. It’s spring. Everything is possible.

Not quite sure where I went for the latter half of 2009. I know there was a lot of work and some travel and A Lot of four year old boy and thirteen year old girl and leaves that had to be raked and dogs that wanted walking. There was the pleasure of a warm fall and the sudden shock of winter and some evenings when I read books and some when there was nothing but email until I hauled my weary self up to bed. There was even, truly, a lot of cooking, even if there was precious little blogging about cooking.

Some of you may have noticed me hemming and hawing a bit over in the right-hand column of this blog; Shana and I both started twitter feeds to share some of our gustatory adventures without the overhead of writing full posts. You can follow me @mariaeats and Shana @shanaeats for quick bites, so to speak. I’m a beginning twitter-er, still learning my way around the short form, but really, I’m a long form narrative sort of girl, so I’m looking forward to finding my way back into this space and our communal conversation about food and all that goes with it.

So, with far too much to say, let me use the most favored technique of the last week of the decade and present my top ten food moments of (the second half of) 2009, aka the things I would have written about if the cat hadn’t run off with my blogger tongue:

  1. Raspberry buttermilk cake. Simple as, well, pie, and all about clean, fresh flavor. Equally good for breakfast and dessert.
  2. Grilled halibut with gremolata butter; best when eating fresh-caught halibut outside a beat-up trailer and looking at this view:
  3. “Restaurant style pork chops” with goat cheese and rosemary polenta. Let me tell you, one of those meals where we kept asking ourselves whether we had actually cooked it.
  4. Braised rabbit. Really, not at all good. But I cooked bunny and was inspired to try again some time!
  5. Smoked trout. Two pounds of local trout smoked on the Big Green Egg, with a little guidance from The Smoked Seafood Cookbook by local smokin’ hero, T.R. Durham. We ate it for weeks and were sad when it was gone.
  6. Nick’s discovery of cornichons. The boy is, I tell you, obsessed. A four year old who will trade in chocolate for pickles. We can’t keep them in the house and when they’re not here he asks wistfully after the “little bent pickles.”
  7. Omelette aux fine herbs. Some day in late September, I cracked a few Dragonwood eggs delivered the day before, snipped a few herbs from my garden and cooked them up with some very fresh Calder Dairy butter. Suddenly, after thirty years of omelette making, I understood what the French have been going on about all these centuries.
  8. Thanksgiving dinner with Anne and Shana and an assemblage of men. Not cooked on Thanksgiving at all, but a few days before, and a chance to cook our way without all the pressure of tradition and family palates to please. There were dates stuffed with foie-gras and Seelbachs and celeriac soup with stilton toasts and duck to die for with tart cherry sauce and these little beauties:
  9. John’s Birthday Dinner/our Christmas Dinner. Crab cakes with citrus aoili, a grilled rack of lamb and lovely risotto, molten chocolate cakes and laughter and family until late in the night.
  10. The Great Flour Throw Down, in which John produced 7 pizzas from 3 flours and conferred with our panel of judges to determine the best flour for his pizza making purposes. Verdict: Italian tipo 00. Read all about it

These are the moments that stand out when I’m here curled in my arm chair on a late December night with a little snow in the air, but really the strongest memories come from the pleasurable sameness of my Ann Arbor days, the little surprises of the CSA box, the treat now and then of a Comet Coffee on the way to work, the crisp delight of fresh apple and sharp cheddar cheese on an autumn afternoon, the reliable deliciousness of a Cafe Japon baguette, the fun of watching my son strike up his independent friendships with his favorite farmer’s market vendors. Nothing special and all so special at the same time. It’s been a good year, and not just in food (although I’m certainly not complaining about the food — except maybe that rabbit). I hope it has been so too for all of you that stop by this blog now and then. I look forward to talking  and cooking more in 2010.

Happy Holidays to All.

Panade Ain’t Pretty


After my last throat-clearing post, I’d wanted to return with something really lovely and inspiring to share with you.

Instead, I have one of the most homely dishes ever to appear in these digital pages.

I’m glad I’m posting it nonetheless for a few reasons. Blogging, like cooking, entails a good deal of putting oneself “out there.” It can be a risky transaction, the self-exposure. G3 has been blessed with gracious readers and commenters (food blogs, like many online spaces, aren’t always so lucky), so I’ve never been terribly afraid of censure from our audience or readers. It’s that I’m typically a harsh self-critic, so posting a picture of something as humble – and homely – as this dish is a good way for me to tell that critic to hush up.

Let me assure you: this dish makes up in flavor what it lacks in beauty. This is oozy, hearty stuff — even a little decadent. Somewhere between onion soup and a casserole, it’s the perfect thing for the wintery weather that’s undeniably upon us here in southeast Michigan. Making this with the last of the Tantre winter share greens, as well as some bits and ends of day-old bread that I’ve been throwing in the freezer for the past months, eases my conscience (I’m not wasting!) and domestic tensions regarding our over-stuffed freezer. Relieving us of a few bags of bread means it’s less likely that we’ll be assaulted by projectile paths of bags of frozen Locavorious produce.

Yep, it makes E happy on a few levels, and that makes me happy.

Onion, Greens, and Gruyere Panade

1 ½ lbs yellow onions, preferably a sweet variety, thinly sliced
About ½ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, slivered
1 lb or so of winter greens – kale or chard are my favorites – cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
10 ounces day-old chewy artisan bread, cut into rough 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
About 2 loosely packed cups good-quality Swiss gruyère

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the onions in lots of olive oil — about 1/4 cup or so. I use my Dutch oven for this, but a deep saucepan would work well. Cook until golden on the edges for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then lower the heat and add the garlic and some salt. Let cook until the onions are a nice amber color, for about 15 mins or so.

Heat a little oil in a large skillet and saute the greens for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Set aside.

Toss and massage the cubed bread with 2 or 3 Tbs olive oil, ¼ cup of the broth, and a few pinches of salt.

Now, I usually assemble the panade in my Dutch oven (the same one I used for the onions, above), but you could use a souffle dish if you like. Start with a good smear of onions, followed by a loose scattering of bread cubes, then a little more onion, some greens, and a handful of cheese. Repeat, continuing until all ingredients are incorporated and the dish is full. Aim for 2 to 3 layers of each component, but don’t fuss over it. This is peasant food, and as I already mentioned, it’s not going to end up pretty.

Pour the remaining broth and water in slowly over the assembled panade, drizzling it down the sides of the dish. The liquid should come up nearly to the top of the layered ingredients.

Set the dish over low heat on the stovetop, and bring its liquid to a simmer. Cover the top of the dish with parchment paper, then with the lid of your Dutch oven or with some foil. Place the panade on a baking sheet in the oven, and bake it until hot and bubbly, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. The top should be pale golden and a bit darker on the edges.

Uncover the panade, raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and leave until for another 10-20 minutes, to brown the top a bit. Remove from oven, and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.


I don’t know about you, but my least favorite kind of blog post is the kind that apologizes for being away from the blog for so long. While I feel all kinds of remorseful for not stopping by here for two whole seasons, I’d like to dispense with the “what I’ve been doing these past months” and say that it’s nice to be here, and that I’ve missed this space.

While I get back into the hang of taking photos of food, not to mention reacquainting myself with my kitchen and meal-planning and cookbooks — I’m woefully out of practice, folks — I hope that those of you who are on Twitter will follow my food-related account, shanaeats. It’s been fun to update — in brief, and on the go — my eating adventures around town and beyond, as well as share links and ideas.

The above photo was taken of me sipping a cappuccino at Ann Arbor’s Comet Coffee, my favorite place to get my morning, afternoon, and weekend caffeine fix. I hope that this first bracing winter-esque day finds you sipping something equally warm and comforting.

Although there are some bright spots, Ann Arbor’s never been one of my favorite restaurant towns. But the three of us over here at the Gastronomical 3 have long agreed and argued that it’s a great town for food. You just won’t necessarily find that food in the local eateries.

A lot of other people are starting to notice that Ann Arbor is a great food town too. There’s been a little flurry of attention for Michigan and Ann Arbor of late. For example . . .

  • Ann Arbor was first runner-up for Bon Appetit’s “Foodiest Small Town” award. The magazine describes AA as “full of forward-thinking, smart people who love good food.” We knew that!
  • Mailates Alfajores were named “the treat of the week” over at the Epi-log (the Epicurious blog). The reviewer agreed with my family “”I like it. I could eat 10 million more right now.”
  • Gourmet magazine features an article by Laura Shapiro on Michigan’s Unlikely Food Revolution

A little closer to home, we’re gearing up for the Homegrown Festival on Saturday from 5-10 at the Farmer’s Market on Detroit St. Food, music and fun, all in celebration of local food and community.

And on Sunday, this year’s Kerrytown Bookfest is all about books and food and includes talks from 1-5 in the Main Tent by the likes of local star culinary historian Jan Longone, Ari Weinzweig, co-owner of Zingerman’s, and Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the “Roadfood” books (and frequent contributors to Gourmet and The Splendid Table). Oh, and a 3 p.m. panel featuring, um, me, and some other food bloggers you probably know.

Oh and did I mention the produce is faint-worthy right now?

Sure, some days I pine for the big city or the temperate growing zones of California. But right now, Ann Arbor seems like a pretty good place to eat. And to talk about it. With smart, forward-thinking people.

A Dinner for a Hot Summer’s Night

It’s really here now, isn’t it? Summer in all its tomato-eatin’, mosquito-swattin’, water-fightin’ glory. The cicadas are  winding themselves up to a frenzy out there in the night, and there have even been a few days when it’s been almost-but-not-quite too hot to cook. I’m deep into it, reveling in eggplant and ice cream and firing up the grill, but also painfully aware that it’s beginning to slip away already, that the light is almost gone by 8:30, and when I went looking to buy water blasters they had been displaced by school supplies. But I’m an autumnal refusenik right now, digging in my heels against September and stretching each August day to its full length.

In that spirit, I recommend our menu from last night which seems almost too simple to report, but was deliciously and utterly summer. There was gazpacho to start — a very simple gazpacho of tomatoes, seeded cucumber, red onion, some bread crumbs, cilantro, sherry vinegar and water given a quick swirl in a blender (bonus points for a serious dent in the farm share!). There was a bottle of chilled pinot grigio. At the end, there were chilled cubes of watermelon (more farm share, more bonus points).

And in between? There was an amazingly simple and amazingly good fish that caused us to halt conversation every few sentences and say “oh man! How about this? This is good!” I was inspired by a recipe in Lynne Rosetto Kaspar’s book The Splendid Table. She reports that this is a classic preparation from Italian sea side restaurants. The concept and the execution are simple. A paste of herbs, garlic and olive oil, a little time for the fish to soak in the flavor and a few minutes over a hot grill. We used a $6.00 piece of Trader Joe’s frozen swordfish, and it turned out brightly flavored and wonderfully succulent; I can only speculate and drool over what this would taste like with some fancy fresh fish. We may have been sitting on our citronella-surrounded deck in downtown Ann Arbor rather than a patio overlooking the Mediterranean, but it felt like la dolce vita to me.

Mediterranean Grilled Fish

1 lb. of firm fleshed fish fillets (Kaspar recommends bluefish, mackeral, tuna or swordfish)

4 T minced fresh herbs (I used a mix of flat leaf parsley and basil at about a 1:3 ratio)

1 clove minced garlic

2 T olive oil

Coarse salt

Grind the herbs, garlic, olive oil and salt into a coarse paste using the grinding apparatus of your choice. I used the mortar and pestle because I don’t own a food processor, but that’s not a point of pride. Cut a few shallow slits into the fish and rub on both sides with the herb paste. Wrap the fillets in plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for 2-5 hours.

When ready to eat (say just before you sit down with your gazpacho), light a charcoal fire and let burn until the coals are covered with grey ash. With the grill approximately six inches from the coals, grill the fish quickly on both sides (about 2-5 minutes a side depending on the thickness of the fish).  Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

We also had some blanched green beans (see farm share, above) tossed in olive oil, lemon. fleur de sel and fresh marjoram, my new favorite way to eat green beans. I spent the better part of my life despising green beans and now I have a favorite way to eat them!

This menu best if eaten while crickets carry on and the stars shine overhead.