Jannie’s Keystone Pasta

Jackson, Ohio to San Francisco

Sent from my iPad
hello Marc. My typing skills are not very good.  I have room for Lots of improvement.  What are you having for supper.  We are having Keystone Pasta.  You put lots of basil in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  Peal about 8 large tomatoes. Sprinkle o.o. Over salt, pepper bit of sugar.  Bake 350for@30minutes and serve Over pasta.  This is a Hale original.  I make this when I have lots of basil.  Just wanted to
Let you know we are enjoying the iPad.  I think it was a good choice.  Say hi to Carol.

Jackson, OH

On our way to the Hale Hollow Pigroast, we stopped for an overnight at Carol’s brother Mark’s farm in Jackson, Ohio. Jackson is about as far southeast as Ohio goes — you want to get away? — this is away.

Keystone tomatoes

Keystone tomatoes

When we walked into the house, I remarked on a gorgeous plate of sliced Keystone tomatoes we would be having for dinner. Mark and Jannie are proud of their tomatoes and this is peak season, so tomatoes are a big part of mealtime. I don’t remember ever having Keystones, but Mark pointed out they’re a close cousin to brandywine tomatoes.

Mark took me on a ride around his place on his Mule, a four wheel get-around-easy-to-keep-up-the-place toy. Fun.


t_ripping_thru_woodsWe went rippin’ through the woods and crusin’ th’ dale.


Passing the garden he showed me the Keystone tomato plants, standing taller than me. Continue reading

Spring Cassoulet

… peach and tomato salad
Gone again… back again

the farm lane

the farm lane

This time we were off to Ohio, a land of heat and humidity, but one of family celebrations, as well. This one was Carol’s brother Alan’s annual pig roast on his farm just south of Lancaster – where Carol grew up – which is just north of Logan – my birthplace – and about 30 miles southeast of Columbus – where I grew up. Having lived in San Francisco for nearly 20 years, a trip “back east” is July is like a hot, wet slap in the face, and Carol tends to obsess over the heat. To my way of thinking, it’s good to go someplace really hot from time to time – not too often. I don the Ohio July uniform of a loose tee shirt, shorts and sandals and live with it. It’s the clammy, usually way too cold air conditioning that gets to me.

dude... check out these Ohio tomatoes!

dude... check out these Ohio tomatoes!

All of that, to say that I haven’t contributed to eats for a while.


I found this recipe for Spring Cassoulet in the CUESA newsletter and though it’s a bit past spring, I had all the ingredients and SF is cool enough just now to enjoy a bean dish.

So, you make a pot of beans and throw some sausages and pancetta on top, and sprinkle that with baby lettuces and edible flowers. How easy and yummy is that? Quite.

But Dominique Crenn of Luce at the InterContinental hotel showed me a few tricks to make this simple thing sophisticated and sublime.

For the beans, she cooked bacon, shallot, garlic, celery and carrot in a generous amount of olive oil and deglazed the pan (I used my bean pot) with white wine. OK so far… that’s the way I start beans. For the twist, she tied up that vegetable bacon mixture in cheesecloth and put it back in the pot for the beans. Viola… no pesky vegetable and bacon pieces in the beans, just their flavor. She used Rancho Gordo White Runner Beans, I used Golden Eye.

Chunks of lamb sausage, pork sausage and chopped pancetta, sautéed with onion and garlic, then cooked with red wine and chicken stock, made it a cassoulet. I used Fatted Calf Merguez and Mild Italian sausages. Continue reading

English Peas and…

grilled things…
and pasta.


It’s the height of the season for English peas. I get my peas from the Iacopi stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers and find them hard to resist, though I limit myself to a bag about every two weeks. A small bag of the Iacopi peas produces about two cups of shelled peas.

I love the concept and the look of English peas. I even enjoy the shelling. But often, I just don’t know what to do with them. One of my favorites is creamed potatoes and peas. Peas and noodles are good, as well. I don’t like to just cook the peas as a vegetable… it reminds me of grabbing a bag of frozen peas and cooking them as a last minute vegetable addition to a meal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s just so… ordinary. It seems to me that the cost and effort it takes for fresh English peas demand more than that.

Last night I had a lovely piece of swordfish and was thinking about doing it on the grill. What to go with? During the evening news, I sat on the couch and shelled my peas. How to prepare?


I had a couple of spring onions and a larger red spring onion. Those sweet things are good with peas, and hey… I could grill the onions with the fish. I was on to something. When I went to get some noodles out of the cupboard, I saw a box of Piccolini – tiny farfalle pasta, a new product from Barilla – “cooks in only seven minutes.” Interesting. The fish will cook in seven minutes, the onions will take about seven minutes on the grill and the peas will cook in four or five minutes. I had a plan.


I lit the grill, rinsed, dried and seasoned the swordfish with salt and pepper. The peas were shelled, I had about 2 cups, so I measured two cups of pasta. I trimmed the onions, cut each in half and, in a shallow bowl, tossed them with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I put on a pot of water for the pasta and peas and preheated the countertop oven to 175°F.

When the grill was ready, on went the onions and the swordfish. Seven minutes later the onions were soft with a bit of crunch and mildly charred. I chopped those and put the fish in the oven to keep warm.

Just before the pasta went into the pot, I generously salted the water, threw in the pasta and set the timer for 7 minutes. A bit after the timer read 5 minutes, I threw the peas into the pot.

When the dinger dinged, I drained the pasta and peas, tossed a couple pats of butter and a gurgle of good olive oil into the hot empty pot, poured in the peas, onions and pasta and tossed.


That was dinner, and oh so fine. The fish was fresh and succulent, the peas, onions and pasta were the perfect counterpoint. Yum.

I sometimes wonder; is it worth lighting the grill and letting it warm up for 15 minutes to use it for only 7 minutes? The answer is an emphatic YES. And that’s why I retired my trusty Weber charcoal grill and got the swell Weber Q gas grille.

The leftover pasta with peas and onions made a great lunch, heated with a can of tomato soup.


Meat the Manchurian Mothership

Grilled Porterhouse Steak sliced over Mashed Manchurian Shell Beans with Jamie’s Mothership Tomato Sauce.Sounds like something that might be on a “menu changes daily” restaurant menu. Actually, it’s what I made for dinner Friday night.It all started at the Marin Sun Farms stand at the Farmers Market. I was in the mood for steak and looking for a New York strip steak when I came across this big gorgeous Porterhouse. It cost $24, but was easily big enough for two meals. Oh boy.porterhouse.pngphoto: Cooks ThesaurusSlow Food Nation was over and the week was warm and lovely in San Francisco. I was in a grilling frenzy — grilled chicken thighs over summer vegetables and grilled brats with cabbage in a sweet sour sauce led off the week. I got the Porterhouse out of the meat drawer and showered it with salt and pepper. Now what?Manchurian shell beans are similar to Cranberry beans. I had some in the fridge that were crying to be used. In the same vegetable drawer was a head of broccoli. Leftover tomato salad could be used to complete the meal; all I needed was a method.
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Spicy Beef

divide and dish

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt the two of them
They licked the platter clean

steak_poblano.jpg     beans_beef.jpg

Cooking for two can present problems at times.I love beans. My wife tolerates beans. I can get away with a bean dinner about once a fortnight, so I satisfy my beans Jones at lunch with the leftovers when she’s away.I love spicy food. My wife is averse to spicy foods to the point where she says it’s painful. How can something so good for one, affect another in such a completely diverse way?Our experiences of the past two days illustrate a story of steak and chiles and leftover steak and other chiles; a wholly unsatisfactory dinner (for one), a delight (for the other), and ultimate harmony.It all starts with a flank steak. We both love flank steak. A flank steak is about 1 1/2 pounds — way too much for dinner for two — so leftovers make a second meal (or more).I do most of the menu planning and cooking — Carol has a real job — and I like to try new stuff. I saw a recipe in the Chronicle by Joyce Goldstein for Grilled Skirt Steak on a Bed of Grilled Poblanos & Onions. It looked really good to me, flank steak can stand in for the skirt steak, and I trust Joyce Goldstein’s recipes.
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Cooking from the TV

Tomato and Sausage Bake


Tomato and Sausage Bake Adapted from Sweet Cherry Tomato and Sausage Bake, from the Food Network show JAMIE AT HOME by Jamie Oliver. The show is based on the book of the same name.When I got home from the Farmers Market on Saturday, Carol had Jamie Oliver’s show, Jamie at Home, on the kitchen TV. He was doing a show on tomatoes. What luck, I had tomatoes in my bag. Jamie’s recipes are always easy and usually good, especially the ones from this show.I stopped and took notes, even as C was saying, “You can get the recipe on the internet.” When the show was over, I went to the Food Network website, found the “Tomatoes” show and copied the recipes to a Word document. Then I checked my notes against the recipes. As usual, there were differences.Warning: When you see something interesting on a food TV show — take notes. You can always look up the recipe on the internet, but sometimes it’s a similar recipe, not what you saw. Also, on TV you can see techniques that aren’t noted in the recipe.In this case, for example:

Recipe — cherry tomatoes, TV — he did it with whole tomatoes of varying sizes and colors. Recipe — 375 ° oven, TV — he cooked in an outdoor, wood fired brick oven. Now he wouldn’t write a recipe for an outdoor, wood fired brick oven, but the temperature in that oven is way higher than 375. Recipe — No bacon or salt pork. TV — he started with bacon or salt pork in the pan and rendered the fat, then took out the bacon and flavored the fat with herbs. Recipe — Chopped garlic. TV — Unpeeled garlic cloves. Recipe — He put everything in the pan at once and popped it in the oven. TV — He put the tomatoes in first to blister the skin, took the pan out and pulled the skins off. Then added the sausages and back in the oven.On TV, he did some “extra dishes” with the leftover sauce. The recipe on the internet said, “Our agreement with the producers of “Jamie at Home” only permit us to make 2 recipes per episode available online. Food Network regrets the inconvenience to our viewers and foodnetwork.com users”

Anyway, you get the drift. Take notes.

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Beans 'n' Tomatoes


When I come back from the Farmers Market on Saturday morning, Carol usually has cooking shows on the kitchen TV. As I was putting away the market fare, I heard Joanne Weir say, “I can swoon over an artless dish of braised big white beans in garlicky tomato sauce with a scattering of wild arugula.” I made a note of it.

Weeks or months later,*
I happened to have some cooked Rancho Gordo Runner Cannellini beans and some fresh heirloom tomatoes; it was lunchtime and I was hungry. I didn’t have any arugula, but I imagined it. I keep a jar of Mezzetta Express Deli-Sliced Tamed Jalapeno Peppers on hand because they give good jalapeno flavor without the heat (Carol screams bloody murder if there’s heat).

I went to work.
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Farmers Markets. ‘Tis the season.

Bean and Bacon Salad

I live in San Francisco and have my choice of about 20 farmers markets, but in 2008, farmers markets are pretty much everywhere. Besides the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, I’ve shopped at Farmers Markets in San Rafael, Berkeley, Oakland, Sacramento, Healdsburg, Boston, Newton MA, Portland ME, Belfast ME, Columbus OH, and yes, even Lancaster OH. Look around on Saturday or Sunday, you can find one.

This is a farmers market meal. You could make it with stuff from the supermarket, but fresh, local stuff just tastes better.


Let’s go down the list.
WHITE BEANS. I used Marrow Beans from Rancho Gordo and cooked them the day before. I cook beans half-a-pound at a time. That yields about 4 cups of cooked beans. Well I work at home, so I can cook the beans anytime, you say. I say, put your beans to soak in the morning before you go to work. When you get home, pour your bowl of beans into a saucepan, water and all (you want to change the water, be my guest). Make sure the water covers by at least an inch. (I use a clay pot, which I think is better, but it’s an investment.) Now, bring that to a boil and let it boil for 4 or 5 minutes, cover and turn the heat as low as possible. That takes about 20 minutes. You want the beans to barely simmer. If you have a heat diffuser, that’s good. Set your timer for 45 minutes and do something else.
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Film Food

It’s film festival time — late April, early May — and the 51st San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF51) is upon us. In doing menu planning for the Saturday Farmers Market, I noted that we had scheduled films for every dinnertime this week but one — and on that day we had tickets for the Giants v. Rockies baseball game. Time to think about alternative eats.

ff_bean_made1.jpg ff_ham_loaf_sand.jpg ff_mac_made1.jpg

bean salad ham loaf sandwich macaroni salad

What is Film Food? It’s gotta be able to be made ahead. Can’t be messy. Must be able to be eaten cold — or at ambient temperature.

Film Society (SFFS) screenings during the year are usually at 7 or 7:30pm. While we reserve spots in advance, the seating is not reserved, so we line up outside up to an hour before the screening in order to secure our favorite seats. The line is part of the experience, part of the social gathering. It also affords a chance to eat a bite before the film is over at nine or later.


We see folks in line with pizza slices, Burger King boxes, containers of sushi or salad, all purchased nearby to eat while in line or even in the theater before the screening. What’s available at the concession stand is hardly healthy or good eats (I’m not a popcorn guy), and frightfully expensive, and the concession stand is not available until after line time.

The situation is similar for the Festival, only heightened by the frequency of the screenings throughout the day and night. My schedule Wednesday, for example shows Frozen at 3:30, out at 5:10, I Served the King of England at 6:00, out at 8:00. That’s five and a half hours, counting the line time. It’s possible to see another film at 9pm, and some folks will. Continue reading

Turn the Other (Beef) Cheek

Braised Beef Cheek with Pappardelle

Beef Cheek Ravioli with Agretti


“Yeah, filet mignon is expensive,” David Evans said during our tour of Marin Sun Farms. “There’s only 15 pounds of it on a 750 pound dressed steer. You don’t want to spend so much, buy some of the lesser cuts.” I bought the Beef Cheek.

I was aware of beef cheek; Carol had Braised Beef Cheek at Absinthe just last week, and son Eric had Beef Cheek Ravioli at Babbo in New York about the same time. Here’s what he had to say about it,

“My beef cheek ravioli were arranged in a single layer on the plate, about eight handmade squares with a very light stock sauce coating. The menu promised a mix of goose liver with the cheek, but the liver provided more of a flavor than a richness, which the beef cheek had plenty of on its own. It was very very good and the others seemed to enjoy their taste of it, but I wouldn’t say it was mind altering. Perhaps too much hype had preceded it.”

I had never seen beef cheek for sale, until I saw it at Marin Sun Farms. I asked the guy, “What do I do with this, braise it?”

“Low and slow,” he said.beef_cheek.jpg

How could I resist, it was $7.99 a pound for a 1.2 pound cheek. Continue reading