Potato Mixta

I’ve seen variations of this dish in Sicily, Greece, and southern France, so I guess it’s truly “Mediterranean cuisine.” Certainly comfort food!
        Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C. In a large pan, boil water.
       Start with 1 pound of waxy potatoes*, peel or not, as you wish; I don’t. Cut into quarters. Add potatoes, parboil for just 7-8 minutes.
       Cut about two dozen good-quality black olives in half. Cut the same amount of small tomatoes (baby plums are best) in half or thirds if they’re a bit bigger. Cut three or four cloves of garlic in thirds. De-stem and seed a red bell pepper, chop into dice. Combine and set aside.
       In a roasting pan, put 50 ml olive oil and place in oven (hot oil won’t soak into the potatoes and make them greasy).
       Drain potatoes, add olive-tomato etc. mix. Scatter over it a heaping tablespoonful of dried oregano** and several grindings of black pepper, toss well.
       Add the potato mixture to the roasting pan and stir well to coat with olive oil (give it a good shake as well). Return it to the oven and cook for about 45 minutes. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes.
       If you want a one-pan meal, brown chicken breasts in a frying pan, then place on top of potatoes to finish for the last half-hour; or lay boneless fish fillets on top for the last 15 minutes. *Any quantity will do, just keep the 50/25/25% ratio. **You could also mix in a couple of rosemary sprigs to the mix before cooking; remove before serving.

BAKED STUFFED PEARS

This is a hearty but elegant recipe I've been fond of for years, pried loose from a chef in San Francisco's North Beach; the flavors are pleasantly contrasted and satisfying.

6 large pears, peeled and cored (cut ¾-inch cavities)
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 fresh small almond (not coconut) macaroons, crumbled
2 oz. heavy cream
panettone, sliced 1/2-inch thick
a scant cup sweet white wine (such as late-harvest Riesling)
2 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Select six individual baking cups, sized to hold each pear upright. Cut panettone slices to fit the bottoms of the cups, butter the slices on one side and put them, buttered side down, into the cups. Set a pear in each cup, and stuff each one tightly with a coarsely crumbled macaroon. Top with some chopped chocolate, until pear is filled to the top; spoon a little cream over all of this.

Pour the wine around the pears and bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Then, spoon a little more heavy cream over each pear and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve hot in the baking dishes; a splash of cold heavy cream creates even more contrast.Yield: 6 servings

From "The Flavor of North Beach Revisited," by Mary Etta Moose and I, now available from Amazon's Kindle Store.

Sweetness and Light: Apple Vanilla Tart

My boy is suddenly into baking. It started with some muffins from the Hummingbird Bakery book (still the standard text for him), then he graduated to lemon-drizzle cake, then a simple plum cake, and so on (all enjoyed by his classmates at school, where he can get even more applause than at home). He found this recipe of mine, and made it on his own, amazing and delighting us. (Tip: The best apples  are Pippins, Gravensteins, Granny Smiths, or Winesaps, anything but Golden Delicious, which are too bland.) The

Food memories: Fenway Park

I pretty much grew up in Fenway Park; at least it felt that way (for my mother, baseball was holy; when she retired, she moved to Arizona, and attended all the Spring-training games she could, happily extending the season). Early every Spring, my mother would get the advance schedule of Red Sox home games, and we’d sit at the kitchen table plotting our Summer, picking our way through weekend and night games with our favorite enemies (the Yankees were top of the list, of course). When those chosen days came, we’d go downtown and board a bus for the 50-mile ride straight to Fenway in Boston, loaded with other baseball fans, chattering madly.
 
Day or night, the first step in the ritual, even before we bought a program, was to get a hot dog, dribble mustard over it (never ketchup!), and then pack in spoonfuls of sweet relish. The mustard was the bright yellow kind we knew as “ballpark

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I’m entranced by a fascinating book called “Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War,” by Anna Ciezadlo. I can’t recall anything like it, and can’t recommend it enough. Ciezadlo is a reporter, married to a Lebanese reporter, and she covered the wars in the Middle East, in Bagdhad and Beirut, for several newspapers and magazines. Her story

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