Saturday, October 27, 2007
Every Saturday afternoon I consult with the chefs at Chez Panisse about menu ideas. I tell ya, they're geniuses at this. Each session revs up my enthusiasm to try new combinations and twists on old favorites and reminds me what's likely to be freshest and most flavorful at the market.
Of course, it's a cyber-conversation and a one-sided one at that: They write; I read. You're welcome to join us; just go to http://www.chezpanisse.com/pgdownmenu.html.
Last week I liked their suggestions of leek and spinach souffle with wild mushrooms, swordfish alla siciliana with currants and pine nuts, red pepper pasta with rosemary, pancetta and rapini greens, and red wine-poached Comice pear with sweetened mascarpone. I only managed to make the swordfish and the pears, but I still plan to try both the souffle and the pasta combination. This week they're serving grilled duck breast with roasted figs, pearl onions and green beans on Tuesday, an apple and quince galette with creme fraiche on Thursday, and a salad of curly endive, persimmons, hazelnuts and Roquefort crouton on Friday. Versions of all three dishes are candidates for the table chez moi.
Even though I own all the Chez Panisse cookbooks, I rarely try to track down the exact recipes. My leeks vinaigrette with pickled beets and farm egg will be a kissing cousin rather than a twin of the plate served in the restaurant this Saturday, but I know the flavors will work together.
I print out each week's menu, store it in a binder, and sometimes I read the saved printouts with no intention whatsoever of cooking from them, but just for the pleasure of savoring the food in my mind. They're serving huckleberry ice cream profiteroles at Chez Panisse this Friday evening and spiny lobster ragout on Saturday. I won't be there, but oh how I envy the diners who will.