Friday, January 9, 2009



Better late than never. I've been caught up this morning in taking care of my eyes. I had my first eye exam in 1 1/2 years. Got a clean bill of ocular health and a couple of new prescriptions, which I am having filled at Sears, using their current "2 for $99" promotion. If I were only buying two pairs of glasses, that would be quite a deal, but I added a third pair, prescription sunglasses, which always break the bank. I'm paying twice as much for them, so I'm getting out of this for a total of about $300. I don't know why eyeglasses are so frigging expensive, but they're a necessity.

The doctor I went to is new to me and I had one of those rare, very positive experiences you sometimes get in a doctor's office. I'd almost make the trip back here to Arlington every year just to keep him as my doctor. He was an older gentleman, with an Arabic name spelled in the French manner, so I'd guess he is originally from Lebanon. I noticed as soon as I walked into the waiting room that everyone was smiling. All the patients and the two ladies handling the paperwork behind the glass panel seemed happy to be there; the latter two were quite welcoming and attentive. I felt like a real person throughout the entire experience, the doctor smilingly invited me to speak and voice my concerns and was thorough in his explanations. Even his background music was remarkable: a mix of soft French café music with accordion, piano and bass, and Brazilian. I complimented him on his choices and he told me he mixes his own CDs for the office, staying up into the wee hours working on it. I liked the music so much I'll probably buy some of it and share it here. Finding a doctor you like gives truth to the old idea of finding a needle in a haystack.

Today's recipe is another Tyler Florence special. I made it last weekend. It's your basic meat and tomato sauce, but the milk, the puréed aromatics and long cooking, combine to render this basic sauce almost as soft as baby food, very succulent, especially on those fat tagliatelle noodles. Tagliatelle are called for because this is the "official dish of Bologna," according to Tyler. The mayor's office of the city even has a sculpture of a nest of dried tagliatelle over the front door. But spaghetti would do just fine.

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
1 1/2 pound ground pork
1 1/2 pound ground beef
2 cups milk
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups dry red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dry tagiatelle pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
1 handful fresh basil leaves

Reconstitute the mushrooms in boiling water to cover for 20 minutes until tender, drain and coarsely chop. Retain soaking liquid.

Puree the mushrooms, pancetta, onion, celery stalks, carrots, garlic, together in a blender.

In a heavy-bottomed pot add olive oil, bay leaves and herbs and cook gently until fragrant, then add vegetable puree and continue to cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes.

Raise the heat a bit and add the ground pork and beef; brown until the meat is no longer pink, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon. Add the milk and simmer until the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Carefully pour in the tomatoes, the mushroom soaking liquid and the wine. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat. Slowly simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring now and then, until the sauce is very thick. Taste for salt and pepper.

When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until done to taste. Drain the pasta well and toss with the Bolognese sauce.

Serve with grated Parmigiano.


Cuidado said...

Those ingredients all together sound delicious. Your Dr sounds like me working to get the perfect mixed tapes for the right environment. I w\once had a store and everyone commented on the music.

Anonymous said...

I was watching CBS morning show and an interview with a NY Chef who was once very wealthy and owned five restaurants in NY, now down to one and he's back in the kitchen. He wrote this recipe book with no measurements. Tells the reader to experiment. I copied his sauce to go on dry rigatoni. I'll make that this weekend, then your recipe here and compare. I love these chefs who use unsalted butter.

Ralph said...

Z&M: HA! Unsalted butter. I've been watching so many cooking shows by now, that's all I use!

Ralph said...

Cuidado, a nice musical atmosphere is something I guess we all like, but it's not something we may allb e aware of until we don't have one. My regular doctor just plays a radio tuned to the local Top 40 station and I hate it. But I never really cared until I realized how nice this other medical environment could be with better music. Makes a huge difference. (I really like my regular doctor, though--in spite of his giving no thought to his music!)

Lonely Rivers said...

I have always thought that the music offered in an office or business told a lot about the owner/management. The (sadly disappearing) Nordstrom live piano sends a very different message than the incessent elevator music of most shopping experiences. Your doctor knows that he and his staff and his patients will be in the midst of this music all day long. He cares enough to make it a great experience. He listens and hears. I would bet he cares a lot about other details of his practice as well.

Ralph said...

Lonely Rivers, I agree with everything you say, but I also remember that like food, there are some people who are passionate about music and others who are not. They're still good people. That's why I hastened to add to a comment above that even though my regular doctor plays awful music on a radio in his office, I like him as a person very much.

Lonely Rivers said...

You are definitely right...I know lots of fabulous people who can walk through store and not even know there is music playing! And, I also know some very skilled Doctor's who leave all of the music business to their office managers! i still go there. Point well taken! LR