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I’ve long wanted to write a post about how to shop at Zingerman’s on a shoestring budget. At times, this felt like trying to write about how to fill your closet with Manolo Blahniks while working at Target.

Now, however, they’re making this task very easy for me: for the next 20 or so weeks on Fridays from 11am – 7pm, Zingerman’s is holding a Warehouse sale at 610 Phoenix Drive [Google Map] in order to move some inventory at generous discounts, which you may have already heard about it in The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Tomorrow — Friday, March 20–everyone who stops in will receive a free gingerbread coffeecake. And best of all: there will also be a free gift–with a purchase–for readers of this blog. Just mention that you heard about it on Gastronomical Three.*

Ann Arbor, our affordable gourmet-grocery-dreams are coming true.

The stock will be different each week, but to keep up with what’s on offer, you can send an e-mail to warehousesale@zingermans.com.Here’s what will be available tomorrow for purchase:

  • English Farmhouse Cheddar – C-EFC – reg. $38/lb, sale price $20/lb.
  • St. Marcellin – C-STM – sale price $5 each
  • Jowl Bacon – M-JWL – reg. $10, sale price $5
  • Marina Colonna Orange oil – O-COL-ARA – reg. $25, sale price $12
  • Moutere Grove olive oil – O-GRO – reg. $35, sale price $15
  • Vosges Mini Book of Bars – P-9VS – reg. $35, sale price $15
  • Anchovy Paste – P-ANP – reg. $7, sale price $5
  • Mathei Biscotti – P-BIS – reg. $14, sale price $5
  • Michel Cluizel 85% bar – P-CLU-85 – reg. $9, sale price $5
  • D. Barbero Torrone – P-DBT – reg. $60, sale price $21
  • Al Dente Land & Sea pasta – P-LSP – reg. $9, sale price $5
  • Tutto Calabria Miscela Esplosiva – P-MIS – reg. $15, sale price $8
  • Bagna Cauda Warmer – P-MKR – reg. $15, sale price $10
  • Il Mongetto Spicy Marmalade – P-MSM – reg. $15, sale price $8
  • Pomodoro Chivaso Jam – P-OMO – reg. $11, sale price $5
  • John Macy’s Cheese Sticks – P-PUF – reg. $6, sale price $3
  • Keemun Tea – T-KEE – reg. $24, sale price $12
  • Zing label Horseradish Mustard – sale price $3 each
  • Rustico Red Pepper Cheese – $7/lb

*G3 is not benefiting from this promotion in any way; we’re just spreading the foodie love. We will always be transparent about relationships between local businesses whose food and services we’re promoting.

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Photo by <a href="http://relish.myraklarman.com/selma-cafe-march-6-2009">Myra Klarman</a>

Photo by Myra Klarman

Well that was fun.

As I mentioned last week, we put on another Selma Cafe, a Friday morning volunteer-run local foods breakfast salon. You can read all about it over at the Repasts blog, but let me just say that Scott cooked up a hell of a breakfast and Garin was my partner in serving crime. Lisa made waffle and granola magic. Matt is all over Selma Cafe 2.0. Aubrey wins the the miracle kitchen worker award. And Jeff hosted and podcasted like no one’s business.

Myra Klarman documented it all exquisitely. I mean — wow.

If you didn’t have a chance to make it last week–or, if you did–I hope you can make it to the next installment of the Selma Cafe on March 13, when Jeremy Lopatin of Arbor Teas will cook omelets to go with our regular waffle and granola breakfasts. I understand that Michigan Mushrooms and hoop-house baby spinach will be among the fillings.

Selma Cafe continues every Friday morning 6:30 to 10:00 am; full details are on the Selma Cafe site. And we’re looking for local-food-loving folks like your-good-selves to keep it going. Interested in helping out? Drop me a line or leave a comment. Or, if you or someone you know needs to be relieved of a 110v commercial pass through toaster, let us know. Thanks!

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Something simple for supper


I enjoy using this blog for my musing on food and life and the spaces in between and for connecting with my food communities — the friends and comrades within walking distance and those in far flung places. I hope people enjoy reading it for all those reasons too.

But sometimes, dammit, it should just be about what to eat for supper. And this is what I ate the other night. Because I opened my March Gourmet magazine and said “ooh, that looks good and I have all the ingredients in the fridge.” And it was good, with a simple grilled steak and some roast potatoes. It would be really good with a roast chicken, as Gourmet recommends. The leftovers were good the next day, with a poached egg on top. The kicker? The leftover oil is lightly flavored and de-vine in salad dressing.

Carrot and Fennel Confit. It’s what’s for dinner

  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 small fennel bulb, stalks discarded
  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 (3-by 1-inch) strips lemon zest, very thinly sliced

Shave carrots with a vegetable peeler into very thin, wide ribbons. Quarter fennel bulb lengthwise, then very thinly slice lengthwise, or do as I did and slice the bulb on a mandoline slicer (watch the fingers!)

Heat oil with cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over low heat until warm.

Add carrots, fennel, and zest and cook gently, without simmering, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender. The original recipe recommends 15 to 20 minutes, but I found it took closer to half an hour. Drain oil into a bowl and transfer vegetables to another bowl to cool to room temperature.

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mushroom bourginon

Upon ordering roasted marrow bones and toast at an Ann Arbor restaurant recently, the waiter asked me if I was from France, or had lived in France. When I told him that I had studied there years ago, he said, “Well that explains it. Only people who have spent time in France ever order marrow bones.” “Ah, but I was a vegetarian when I lived in France!” I thus confounded his theory. (The story of how I went from eating no meat to loving marrow bones is perhaps for another day. Let’s say that bacon played a key role.)

Since I learned my way around the kitchen during the years when I was not eating meat, vegetarian cooking is my foundation. I don’t really feel like anything is “missing” from a dish if it lacks meat. That said, I had been on quite a tear lately with the heavy, meat-laden dishes: in the space of about two weeks, I had made braised short ribs, cassoulet, roast chicken, coq au vin, and a meaty lasagne. I think this is my way of battling the brutal Michigan winter: spend hours in the kitchen, tending to something steamy and comforting in the oven or on the stovetop. This has the lovely effect of filling the house with awesome smells and the belly with hearty fare. It also has the unlovely effect of fattening up both me and E.

Something had to give.

The dish I want to share with you is the best of both words: a traditional French dish, sans beef. It’s great for when you want something that will sustain you on a cold February night, but don’t have the time or will to go to the gym twice a day to pay for it.

pearls

Mushroom Bourguignon
[Modified version of the recipe from Smitten Kitchen]

2 T or more olive oil
2 T or more butter
2 pounds mushrooms (I used some portobello and button, but crimini would be nice as well)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
2 cups broth (veg, chicken, or beef – whatever you have on hand)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in two batches. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.

Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn up the heat until the liquid reduces by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir in. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, continue to boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

Spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles and sprinkle with chives or parsley; add some sour cream if you like, though I don’t think it’s all that necessary.

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. . . and I’m back.

Both from several very full days in New York for work–where I attended a great, geeky, publishing conference and where I of course managed to find lots of good things to eat–and back to the blog as well. I won’t bore you with my tales of winter woe that has kept me from feeling inspired to do a lot of things, especially blogging. Suffice it to say that spending a good chunk of time in the city revived me, and hanging out talking about social media got me itchy to get back to G3.

Since I spent a few days thinking about new modes of writing and reading for the web, I thought I’d try a different composing tactic with this post and write up my food highlights in a Google Map. (So 2006, right?) Just drag the map around and click on the blue pins to find my little blurbs, or just go directly to the larger map view.

I’d love to know where you like to eat when you’re in New York! Feel free to add them to my map, or mention some places in the comments.

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Feb. 1 — Update

I’m such a trend-setter. Over at the New York Times, they’re whipping up my chestnut polenta. Interesting to see the pros wrestling with the same questions I did. Where do you get chestnut flour? Do you eat those proscuitto ends from the ragu?

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This was supposed to be a post about the virtues of
making do with what you have, of cooking with available resources. of stretching the food budget a little bit further in these tough economic times. But, well, something got in the way of all that virtue. Chestnut flour.

So, first, flash back a few weeks to the A16 Ragu Alla Napoletana that filled my kitchen with such fine smells and my freezer with neat little tubs of left-overs. In our dual quest to use up the things around the house and to cook our way through the A16 cookbook, I lit upon the idea of a dinner of chestnut polenta with the ragu and eggs. Defrost the ragu, make sure I have some really good eggs on hand from the market and whip up some polenta. Easy and elegant.

Wait. Whip up some chestnut polenta. So, the means adding some chestnuts to it, perhaps at the end of cooking? Um, no. Chestnut flour, stirred in toward the end of the polenta process. OK, well, Michigan is one of the places in the country where chestnuts are making a significant come-back. Some local entrepreneur must be making chestnut flour, right? Well, not as far as couple of hours of intermittent online research and a couple of inquiries at local purveyors of hard-to-find ingredients indicates. After this investigation, the polenta had moved off the list of “spontaneous ideas for tonight’s dinner” and on to the list of “must make this because it’s a personal challenge.”

Back to the internet. Chestnut flour, it turns out, is available from a few Northwestern growers, Barry Farm in Ohio, imported from Italy and, of course, from Amazon. The native brands run about 7-9 dollars for a one pound bag: Italian chestnut flour costs upwards of fifteen dollars a pound. I settled on Allen Creek Farm for the scientific reason that it came up at the top of my Google search, and I like the kitchy cartoon chestnut guy on their homepage. Eight dollars isn’t so much to invest for dinner, is it, when the rest is leftover sauce, some polenta from the cupboard and a handful of eggs? Oh, well, there’s the eight dollar shipping charge.

Sixteen dollars and three days later, I had a bag of yellow chestnut flour in my possession. A day after that, we settled got down to the business of dinner. Once you’ve got the flour, the hard part is over. You just cook the polenta in the standard way, but late in the process, stir in a quarter cup of the chestnut flour. Yup, all that work for a quarter cup of flour. What it adds is a nutty sweetness, and also, I think, some resistance to thickening, so the polenta stays appealingly creamy. Meanwhile, bring the sauce to a simmer in a wide sauce pan and poach the eggs directly in the sauce. You want to make sure the yolks are still runny enough to break at the touch of your fork, spilling into the sauce and polenta, adding depth and richness. Grate some ricotta salata (or Parmesan is just fine, after all we’re making do with what we have . . . sort of) on top. If, like me, you want to enjoy the fact that you can get chestnuts in Michigan, roast a few and add at the end for both good looks and a nice contrast in textures. The resulting dish is both homey and sophisticated and great fare for a cold winter’s night. Maybe next time to be followed by A16’s Walnut and Chocolate Semifreddo with Chestnut Shortbread and Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce. Because, after all, I’ve got a lot of chestnut flour left over, and I need to be frugal. As soon as I get a line on a good source of tipo 00 flour.

Chestnut Polenta With Ragu Alla Napoletana, Eggs and Ricotta Salata

1 cup coarse-grind polenta

4 cups water

1 t kosher salt

1/4 cup chestnut flour

2 cups of ragu alla napoletana

Fresh basil leaves

Eggs, as many as you want to eat. (We did two per person as this was a main dish).

Extra virgin olive oil

Ricotta salata or other cheese suitable for grating over pasta

Combine the water and salt in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer and whisk the polenta steadily into the water for a few minutes until it comes together and has reached the boiling point. Turn the polenta down to a low simmer (just so that lava-like bubbles come to the surface now and then) and stir often with a wooden spoon. Cook for 30 minutes to as long as you like. The conventional wisdom is that the longer you cook polenta, the better it is, but don’t let it dry out. Add more water as necessary. Toward the end of cooking stir the chestnut flour and simmer for a few more minutes.

Truth be told, you could easily skip the chestnut flour, but I think the dish would lose some of its special quality. I also added some butter because, well, butter makes things better, doesn’t it?

As the polenta is finishing, warm the sauce and combine it with the basil. You may want to loosen it a bit with a little water. Crack the eggs one by one into the sauce, keeping them separate. Cover and cook at a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, longer if you’re squeamish about runny eggs.

Serve the polenta into warm bowls and then gently slide a spoonful of ragu and the eggs on top. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated cheese. Nice with an Italian red wine, some crusty bread and a green salad.

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Snow Day

And the great banana bread round-up

Once upon a time, in another life, when I read books and talked about them for a living, I worked under the benignly neglectful supervision of a self-consciously absent-minded professor (we’ll call him the AMP). The man was a work of art(ifice). He taught English; he smoked a pipe. His enthusiastic scrawlings escaped the bounds of the chalkboard and meandered onto the wall. At least once a semester, usually at the point of maximum sleepiness amongst his students, he, oh-so-carelessly, in the middle of an impassioned sentence, stepped into the waste paper basket in his classroom. He was scrawny and stoop-shouldered, with a furrowed brow and a fine head of hair, shot with distinguished gray. He wore tweed and an air of infinite, long-suffering world weariness. His students and his colleagues all enjoyed him immensely.

One particularly cold night, I sat with the AMP and his wife, Tamara, in a lecture hall that refused to get warm, listening to the words of a visiting poet. After the reading, we walked out into the frigid Michigan evening, pausing for a moment to zip up and to tilt our heads toward the crystal clear, star-littered skies. “Tamara,” moaned the AMP in his most dispirited tone, “why do people choose to live in this climate?”

Fifteen years later, the coldest winter days still evoke in me the memory of that mournful question. Over time, it’s become shortened in my mind to the single, short-hand plaint of “Tamara . . .” It’s sunk in my head, permanently, and sub-zero temperatures bring it bobbing to the surface. This past week? I’ve been stomping around in my long underwear a lot, murmuring “Tamara?” to myself.

Especially Friday, which dawned around here with its usual chaotic shoving of toaster waffles into the children, packing of lunches, finding of mittens, hurry, hurry, hurry, you’re going to be later for . . . but wait, there’s a squeal from upstairs. The girl has received the fateful text message, has verified on the web, indeed, it’s thirteen below with sustained wind chills lower than minus twenty, and school is, yes, closed. And that means preschool is too.

Damn.

What follows is a flurry of email and canceled meetings and comparing of schedules and checking of vacation balances, and I am bitter, at the world, the public school system, the friggin’ wind chill. But then, the sun comes out and fills the house with light reflected off the snow. The kids curl up together in front of a movie, a sweet pile of limbs and pajamas and morning warmth, I put the kettle on, and life slows down. It’s not so bad to miss a conference call or two.

What to do with all that time? Drink tea, eat clementines and choose which banana bread to make. Winter is high banana bread time for me, and I have a number of recipes competing for my loyalty. Here are some variations I’ve made in the past year or so with some success:

The loaf that carried the day on Friday, was also from Orangette (the woman is obsessed with banana bread, btw; I think there are six versions on her blog) was set apart by coconut, dark rum and a crunchy demerara sugar topping. Did her recipe call for chocolate chips? It did not. But my children were home, after all. They had to endure the pain of school being canceled. I couldn’t oppress them with chocolate chip-less banana bread as well. This loaf is great warm, rich with coconut and chocolate, and it’s also great the next day when the flavors have opened up a bit. Eaten with a cup of tea or even, after the kids have gone to bed, a little snort of cognac and a little tropicale music warming the house, it’s at least one good reason to choose to live in this climate.

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