Spider webs spin while I cook in the cabin, and Wednesday night, silvery filaments flashed across the open doorway to the deck as I stirred red burger onions in a pan,
Adding rice to toast in the oil with the onions for a minute, I deglazed the pan with half a cup of vermouth (white wine will also work, but the new vermouths, crafted with care, are lovely and nice to keep on hand, especially to pair with boquerones). I added most of the quart of chicken stock from Old Creek Ranch that I found at the Cabrillo market,
and then about a cup of mashed strawberries, letting the sweetness simmer into a bright hue, and a little heavy cream to finish this surprising risotto (recipe), adding peppery rocket lettuce and local almonds as a garnish.
My friend Jessica mused earlier this week on ways strawberries could be savory. Like Jessica’s energy for new projects, often of words that arrive in startlingly new places, there is a lightness in this recipe that lends itself to flexibility.
It is rather like what I hoped “Top Chef” would be; a figure like Tim Gunn would sweep into the room, unveil an ingredient and cooking style (instead of a branded product), exhort “Make it work!” and swan out, leaving a preternaturally talented chef to arrive at this blushing first course.
While I was considering ways to incorporate this into a dinner party menu, I discovered another web winking beneath my deck chair, and I rose to roast radishes (400 degrees F for 15 minutes) so they almost burst,
leaving the fennel raw, and using a mandoline to slice the root thinly into mandalas,
then I pan-fried local Monterey Bay red snapper from that afternoon’s market with olive oil and crushed red pepper, letting a little of my aioli melt into the fish and then the fennel and radishes,
all different shades of pale and pink, before I began seeking out even more spider webs in the rest of the evening’s light…