Eats For One … or more


Salmon Tartare too    3


I wrote about a swell Salmon Tartare over Cauliflower Salad.
That was a result of chance and invention and trial and error.

This time, I bought a couple hunks of salmon to pointedly undercook on the grill and duplicate the Salmon Tartare as before.

grilled salmon dinner with the “thin end parts”

Meanwhile, we had Reno Little Theater tickets. The Gas Lamp Restaurant is only a half block away from the theater and is one of their sponsors so we are in the habit of dinner there before the theater (hey — they give 20% off to folks with tickets).

Tuna Tartare with Avocado was on their menu and I had to have it. Delicious, and just right for an early dinner.

tuna tartare with avocado and crispy won ton at the gas lamp

Why not do my Salmon Tartare over Avocado? Why indeed.

Take the same recipe and substitute dressed avocado for the cauliflower salad. Way different dish, equally delicious.

cube and dress your salmon and avacado

assemble the components

serve and enjoy

Salmon Tartare over Avocado
based on an idea from the Gas Lamp Restaurant, Reno and a preparation by Jacques Pepin, Fast Food My Way

For the Salmon Tartare:
12 ounces salmon flesh, thoroughly trimmed
[OR... Grilled salmon from the center of a fillet, see note below]

No more than 30 minutes before serving, cut the salmon flesh into 1/2 inch pieces and combine with 2 1/2 Tbsp chopped red onion, 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives, 1 Tbsp drained capers, 2 tsp XV olive oil, 1 tsp rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

For the Avocado:
One largish Haas Avocado, cubed.
Combine the avocado cubes in a bowl with 1 Tbsp XV olive oil, 1 Tbsp chopped red onion, 1 Tbsp Dijon style mustard, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Place a 4-inch metal pastry ring on a plate and arrange a layer of dressed avocado inside. Cover with a layer of salmon tartare. Arrange garnish around the ring. Carefully remove the ring. Repeat.

NOTE on salmon… Grill two Verlasso Salmon fillets so they are very rare at the thickest part. Eat the thinner parts for dinner. Use the very rare thick parts for this salmon tartare.


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Another new toy    0


I like poached eggs, but not the mess of poaching them, and while I do them pretty well, there are many opportunities to mess up.

Well, what do you know? I was looking on for some recipe or something and saw an ad for a foolproof-five-fork-rated egg poacher reduced 25 percent for Epicurious readers.

Why debate? I just won many $$$ in the RectorFootball pool. A couple clicks and a few days later and that big boy was in my kitchen. There was even an empty spot in the pantry to store it.

First try…

My first beautiful poached eggs — served over leftover chili from the Sierra Canyon Great Balls of Fire Chili Cook-off — was not a disaster. Neither were the results perfect. This egg poacher has an inherent problem; it is not a poacher, it is a steamer. To poach something, one would immerse it in liquid. With this “poacher,” one places an egg in a cup, suspended over boiling or simmering water, so the egg cooks in steam. Big difference.

two eggs steaming

Thus, the whites don’t etherially wrap the yolks, but rather, wrap the yolks fairly firmly. Nevertheless, the result is a soft white with a runny yolk to seep into and flavor each bite of the chili. It’s simply a different eating experience.

On the other hand, this “poacher” does some things a simple pan of water cannot do. Here is a recipe from the instruction manual — printed in four languages — that comes with the poacher.

Fill the egg poacher pan one-third full of water.
Mix four eggs with some milk or cream. Season with pepper and salt. Pour the mixture into the cups.
Set the saucepan on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Put the cups in the tray and place the whole into the pan. Cover with the glass lid and leave to steam for about 4 minutes. The eggs might rise a bit during the steaming, but  do not worry, they will collapse as soon as you take the eggs out.
Take out the cups from the tray and turn them upside down on to a plate. Serve with toasted bread triangles.
Add chopped chives to the egg mixture.
Add small pieces of bacon or ham to the egg mixture.

I chose to chop a mushroom, saute it in butter and add those pieces to the cups. Pour the egg mixture over that and pop it into the “poacher.”

sauteed mushrooms in two poacher cups

add egg mixture to the cups

eggs plated alongside bacon strips

The eggs jiggled when I turned them out of the cups. I was surprised to find the outer layer soft like a scrambled egg and the center runny, as a poached egg would be. Now that’s a good egg. Yum.

There are other variations, which I have yet to try, so look back occasionally to see what’s up.





La Strada 2009 ’10 ’14    4


Nataliya after the wedding.

On one of my first visits to Reno — house hunting with Brian in June of 2009 — after a long day of scouting the town we needed a bite to eat, but not just any bite. He had done some research and declared La Strada in the El Dorado Hotel and Casino to be the best casino restaurant. Of course we went there to eat and ordered the four-course tasting menu with a few bucks extra for wine pairing. Excellent.

Neither of us knew at the time that the best restaurants in Reno are not necessarily in the casinos.

Fast forward to 2014. Brian and Nataliya have a home in Sparks and Nataliya is teaching a Biology course at Truckee Meadows Community College. Last week she got her first paycheck. WooHoo! Time for a celebration. Nataliya selected Sunday dinner. Brian checked out some of the best restaurants in Reno; Rapscallion Seafood House, Bricks, 4th Street Bistro… all are closed on Sunday. Why not go to La Strada? It’s a celebratory kind of place. We went there after their Reno wedding in June of 2010. OK then… dinner at seven.

As we ordered — I planned on the Rigatoni Fra Diavolo — Brian ordered the four-coarse tasting menu. Hey, that sounds good, I’ll have it too.

First course, a green salad featuring smoked salmon.

2014 First Course: Lovely salad featuring smoked salmon and fennel.

As we launched into the meal we talked about this being our third tasting menu including the one after their wedding in 2010. — And where could one get a four coarse tasting menu in San Francisco for $40? — I know I have pictures of the last one, but I didn’t take notes… in any case, maybe we can compare.

2010 First course — This salad appears to feature steak.

The courses seem to repeat themselves, but with different stars.

Second Course: white and red pasta.

2014 Second Course — the La Strada signature Wild Mushroom Stuffed Ravioli paired with Lasagna.

2010 Second Course — Lasagna and Ravioli, but with definitely different ingredients.

Third Course: surf and turf.

2014 Third Course — Osso Bucco on a bed of soft polenta, Salmon with a Crabmeat Glaze and Broccolini

2010 Third Course — Looks like a white fish, maybe Halibut and maybe a veal and mushroom companion. The carrot and asparagus are attractive.

And then — ta da… the Dessert Course

2014 Dessert Course — semifreddo, a semi-frozen ice cream cake

2010 The Wedding Cake — not from the kitchens of La Strada, but from an Austrian Bakery, Franz’s Backstube

As it turns out, we live quite near this bakery. Heads of the bride and groom previously eaten for good luck.

So… if you’re up for a celebration in Reno, we know a place.

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Day 11 Friday October 18th
THE DAY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. But first, breakfast — complementary at the Holiday Inn Express. Pretty good; scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage gravy biscuits, fruit, and lots of stuff I don’t generally eat like hot and cold cereal. And coffee.

free parking

We got to downtown Cooperstown around 10am to find free parking everywhere in the winter. Crude signs grace all the meters on Main Street and in the big parking lots behind the storefronts. In the shade on Main Street, there was a chill in the air and a nasty breeze. We posed in the sun for pictures in front of the Hall of Fame. Admission for Seniors, $12.

Ready to soak up some baseball on a cold October day.

I love the idea of the Baseball Hall of Fame and enjoy the debate leading up to selection time. It’s too bad that the curmudgeons of the Baseball Writers Association of America is so up-tight and has seen fit to elect only a handful of non-oldtimey players over the past few years. Of course there is extreme controversy over the “steroid era” players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. We’ll see how that plays out.

I loved KNBR promoting their broadcaster Jon Miller for the “Broadcast Wing” of the HOF and his subsequent selection.

Pitch and catch outside a window near the Broadcast Wing.

That said, I found the actual National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum a huge disappointment. The organization is sketchy. I guess it’s organized by era, but then, sometimes isn’t. The design and graphics for the exhibits is just horrible. Stuff is somewhat grouped in glass display cases… say 3 jerseys, 5 bats, a couple of gloves, some caps, some shoes… with no clear relationship, no title for the group and you have to get really close to read the “captions” for each item on gray business card type stock. They too are all one size letters with no emphasis. So an old guy like me is constantly stepping back to get the overview, then stepping up, glasses on to read the little cards, then stepping back, and so on.

They should take a cue from the touring exhibit I saw when the All Star Game was in San Francisco. That exhibit was of course smaller, but clear and organized and “Hall of Fame worthy.”
…Read the rest of this entry »

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Salmon Tartare    2


Not to mention Salmon with a Hot Mustard Glaze

On this day, I stood in front of Scolari’s fish counter, a locally owned and operated supermarket with 10 locations, mostly in Reno and Sparks. They tend to have beautiful produce, a nice meat and fish counter and an extensive deli counter featuring local and regional brands.

How could I miss the Verlasso Salmon with its rich salmon color and plump fillets?

Verlasso is the first and only ocean raised, farmed, Atlantic Salmon to receive the “good alternative buy” ranking from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Farmed off the coast of Patagonia Chile, it is filleted on location, packed in ice and shipped fresh.

I have never bought and cooked it before, but Carol has. This is my big chance. Two half-pound fillets, a little over an inch thick. Beautiful.

Verlasso Salmon fillets

It was still too cold and windy to grill, so I launched a recipe search for such a lovely fish. I settled on a NY Times recipe from February, 2006; Salmon With Hot Mustard Glaze adapted from David Kinch, then 44 and who remains the chef and a partner at Manresa, Los Gatos, California. Cooking Time: 30 minutes or less. Quick, EZ and lookin’ good.

While noodling around on the internet, I happened — by pure chance — onto a web site called I had never heard of it, but suddenly I was staring at a picture of a Hasselback Potato. It was striking in its purity and presentation.

from the web site: slice, slather with butter or bacon grease and bake at 425

Like the salmon recipe, the instructions couldn’t be simpler, but the potato took an hour or so to cook, so I started with that.
…Read the rest of this entry »

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grilling again    1


There’s something special about a grilled meal. From the shopping to the eating there’s a protocol, choices and a routine. This meal started with me standing in front of the fish case at Raley’s. The weather in Reno has been beautiful; sunny, clear, a bit cool in the 40’s but occasionally easing up to 51 or 52. Makes a body think of breaking out the grill.

Thinking grill, I noticed some lovely Steelhead Trout fillets. This has become my favorite grilling fish ever since discovering it as a whole fish at Raley’s. I wrote about that guy, and have since grilled the fillets any chance I get.

Rainbow trout/steelhead are ray-finned fishes in the salmon family, and they are one of the top sport fish in North America. Rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species, but they have different lifestyles. Steelhead are anadromous, meaning they spend part of their lives in the sea, while rainbow trout spend their lives mostly or entirely in freshwater.


EGG moved to front courtyard

As soon as I could after our early December snow, I shoveled a path and moved the gas grill to the garage and the EGG to the front courtyard. And we bought an LED clip-on light — that makes winter (nighttime) grilling possible.

the light is clipped on the right “wing” and you can see its shadow on the wall

So on with the grilling. To eat at 7pm, I light the grill a little before six, and it is plenty dark at that time in January.

EGG Glows, but it doesn’t shake… I shake, it’s cold.

Tonight, I wanted to do everything on the grill. Trout, spinach and sliced potato. I boiled the potato until cooked through. Then slice it, oil and season it, and finish on the grill with the fish. The trout will cook in 6 to 8 minutes and I’ll hold that and the potato slices in a warm oven. The spinach cooks in about 3 minutes, is a bit messy, demands attention and cools quickly — especially outdoors in the winter — so I cook that last. Rinse the spinach and take it to the grill in a colander. Place it on my cast iron grill pan (the lid of my cast iron skillet), and toss while it cooks. That’s the attention demanding messy part. There’s way too much spinach to fit the grill pan, but it shrinks a lot as it cooks, so its put on as much spinach as possible, toss and shrink, put on more spinach, etcetera, all the while trying to keep it on the skillet and not scattering on the grill. [Harder to write than do...] And the fire is HOT.

trout over spinach with grilled potato slices

That went so well, I grilled again the very next day. We had three Maine lobster tails left from Christmas dinner. Excellent candidates for grilling. Those ‘tails plus grilled onion slice and baked potato. Not so fussy about doing everything on the grill this time. The onion slices take about 10 minutes to crisp tender, the lobster tails about six minutes. I timed so they both came off at once, figuring it’s no crime to cook the onion slices a few minutes longer.

Lobster tail, onion and baked potato. The M doesn’t Mean anything, just grill marks as a result of turning and rotating. Kinda cool, though.

A few days later, I had an appointment at my Dermatologist — near South Virginia and McCarran  — and not far from Whole Food. My must haves from Whole Food are Newman’s Own Organic Thin Sticks Pretzels, whatever fish looks good — and oh-by-the-way — they make the best Lamb Merguez Sausages. Another grill opportunity. They also had cippilini onions, so we got a few for grilling beside the sausages. We picked up some Brussels sprouts, as well. Those pretzels are just so crisp and crunchy and so good.

Merguez, Brussels sprouts, grilled cippilini and scraps of red bell pepper for color

Who ever heard of grilling Brussels sprouts? Not me. But I figured if I par-boiled them oiled them up and just threw them on the grill, what could go wrong? Turns out, nothing went wrong… delicious. Grilled cippilini onions are the best. Peel and slice in half… perfect thickness and caramelized a bit, they taste so sweet and good.

Altogether, three really good grilled meals. And just in time. This morning it snowed.

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Christmas Eats 2013    2


What do you do Christmas week, but eat? We ate some strange and wonderful things, so I thought I’d write about it.

It started the week before at a neighborhood holiday party. Folks bring stuff and rather than making a casserole or something, we took a cheese plate.

from 12 o’clock, mixed olives, St. Agur, Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam, Mousse Pate over various candied and dried fruits and nuts.

Yummy. Last year we just took a fat piece of St. Agur, a double cream blue cheese from France and a piece of country pate. This year, we opted to have our favorite cheese store – Wedge — make up a cheese platter. Good choice. AND, believe it or not, there were leftovers (not many) and we got to take those home.

Christmas eve, we went to Brian and Natasza for dinner. Brian is often messing around with something interesting to cook. He finds “Manager’s Special” stuff at the supermarket (nobody else wants it) and he figures out something to do with it. On this occasion, it was pork belly, which is basically uncured bacon. He found a recipe in a food blog for Grilled Korean Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps (Daeji Bulgogi).

marinated pork belly

Marinate your “Manager’s Special” pork belly in a spicy marinade/dipping sauce.
Grill on direct medium heat flipping every two minutes, until the pork is browned and crispy. Brian’s pork took 3 or 4 flips.

the grilling is easy but demands attention and makes a lot of smoke

off the grill and onto the table — oh my, that is good

pork belly served with cabbage wrap and rice

Natasza made brown rice with mushrooms and a shredded beet salad with nuts and raisins. I kibitzed and took some pictures.

Brian and Natasza came to our house the next day for Christmas and dinner. A while back, we bought some mail order Maine Lobster Tails for this very occasion. Brian promised to make pasta and a caviar sauce. Carol found this marvelous recipe on Food 52 for Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette. She made mashed sweet potatoes as well. Sounds like dinner.
…Read the rest of this entry »

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Post Pig to Cooperstown    0



We’re in a cool downstairs bar space, high windows streaming with light despite the still gray skies. The U-shaped bar was table-height — the space behind the bar lowered — so we’re sitting at the bar in SudsPub in actual chairs. Nice. We’re in the heart of Red Sox country in Bethel, Maine on our way to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY. The Sox are playing the Tigers in the American League Championship yet the bartender is wearing a Bruins sweater and guys at the bar are talking Patriots.

“Bowl o’ Clam Chowda,” sez I. Carol orders the Fish n Chips. We had agreed that I would share her chips.


The clam chowder was the real deal, obviously house made with real clams and not overly thickened with flour.

We started driving west this morning. Our itinerary showed Wednesday as a Belfast day, but we had done Belfast things and got to thinking — with Eric’s help — about a leisurely leafer-peeper trip across New England back roads to Cooperstown instead of blasting down the Maine Turnpike and across the Mass Pike, etc. Good thinking Eric.

sausage and quasi-ratatouille

OK, then… Eric whips up a sausage and quasi-ratatouille and egg-over breakfast and we’re off at 10am under gray skies, me driving.

On the road again. Feels good.

fractured color

We took Route 7 north out of Monroe, driving past MOFGA — where I had just spent a significant and fascinating three days — to Route 2 and across Maine to lunch in Bethel. Route 2 is the direct route west across upper New England. Not a ton of people up here and two lane double yellow line road is smooth going but doesn’t offer many passing opportunities.

damn van

It seemed like we followed this white van with New York plates all day. She was going at a good speed — we learned the van held five women — it’s just that there it was, in our view all the time.

After lunch, we drove on and stopped for gas in Lancaster NH. Who knew?

Lancaster NH celebrating 250 years

We reached Montpelier, Vermont a little after 5pm and decided to stop, even though we were programed to go on to Rutland. Following visual cues, we crossed the Winooski River toward the gold dome of the State Capitol and turned right on — guess what — Main Street to check out a big hotel. Looked it up on Safari… average rate $225 per day. No thanks. Looked corporate and stuffy anyway.
…Read the rest of this entry »



My new favorite kitchen thing    0


a cheese thing…

that’s Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery

It’s a cheese board with a glass cover. I’m pretty sure it has a name, but don’t know what it is. Anyway, it is great because good cheese shouldn’t be served or eaten cold. And if this is empty, it’s a reminder to get the cheese out of the fridge in time. I’d better go get mine out now.

Saw it at World Market for $20. They had one, and I bought it on the spot. WooHoo.



Dinner Salad    0


Breakfast Salad

“I’m cooking some spaghetti and that 1 1/2 links sausage with red sauce for dinner. If you want a salad, make one, I don’t care.” Carol announced dinner plans while I watched “Sportstalk Live” a show on Comcast Sports Net Bay Area and picked up on my Direct TV. Gotta keep in touch, and the 49ers whupped up on the Seahawks yesterday.

When I saw her put the water on to boil, I started thinking about the salad. We both like what we call Israeli Salad, which is basically chopped vegetables. The true Israeli Salad (or Arab salad) has a base of tomatoes and cucumbers, but I make it with whatever — and tomatoes and cucumbers aren’t exactly in season (there’s six inches of snow out the window).

I started by littering the kitchen counter with all things choppable and started chopping. I know I started with three cornichons and that didn’t look like enough, so I chopped one more. This gave me a basic quantity to match for each vegetable. To chop a cornichon as wide as its diameter, gave me a size to work with. So… the rest of the vegetables are listed in alphabetical order. I can’t remember in what order I chopped and added, and it doesn’t matter.

  • • pickled asparagus from a jar
    • celery, the very very tender inner heart left from using stalks to make soup
    • green olives
    • mandarin orange, sectioned and chopped
    • red radishes
    • scallions
    • sugar snap peas
    and lastly, a sliced endive. Last because I didn’t know if one would be enough. It was.

I tossed those with Newman’s Own salad dressing and there you have it. (OK, I coulda shoulda made my own dressing, but I did the whole salad while the spaghetti was cooking. Besides, I like Newman’s.)

dinner — chopped salad, spaghetti with red sauce

That made more than enough for Carol’s and my dinner salad and I had a cup and a half or so left for my breakfast (that was not unplanned, I love salad for breakfast).

Salad out of the fridge. I like salad for breakfast, but not cold salad. I dumped it on a plate and put in the countertop convection oven for a while at 150°F while I fried some cubes of Spam (I chopped one slice, about 1/2 ounce). Added the Spam to the salad plate and fried a flat egg to go over.

plate of not cold chopped salad

with a flat egg