Thursday, March 31, 2005

Wedesday's Dessert: Caramelized Peaches

This is a repeat of the recipe from JPFF, once again with deviations from the book brought on by necessity. :-)
Whole Foods didn't have any halved peaches in cans, so we used frozen peach slices and I made a heavy syrup with 1/2 cup of sugar and about 1/2 cup of water. This time I added a bit of salt to the sauce and made sure that I waited long enough to get a nice caramel instead of stopping at the first hints of color. The other change from last time is that we have pistachios in the house, so I could top the desserts (on toasted brioche, of course) with nice pistachio bits.

This dessert is really simple and very, very good.

Future Notes:

  1. If making the syrup myself, don't bother adding the full amount of water, which is just going to be boiled off.
  2. It's probably possible to add egg yolks to the sauce (remove peaches) and convert it into a delicious custard. This is really worth thinking about.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Tuesday Night: Roasted Alliums and Other Good Stuff

Our CSA box include one bunch of spring onions and one bunch of green garlic. This got me thinking about the roasted alliums with chive oil recipe in FStoS, which has been on the "we should make that" list for a while.

So last night I roasted up a big batch with: spring onions, green garlic, normal garlic, shallots, yellow onion, and red onion. We had the roasted veggies next to a pile of mashed potatoes and topped both with the chive oil.

To accompany the vegetables, I seasoned a couple of turkey breast slices with salt and cayenne, browned them, and then served them on top of some quick-sauteed dino kale, topped with a bit of roasted tomato salsa.

What a meal! The combination of the roasted alliums and mashed potatoes, rounded out by a bit of sharpness from the chives, is magic, and the somewhat smoky character of the flash-fried kale complemented the turkey really well.

One note to my future self: don't forget to turn on the hood fan before throwing the cayenne-coated turkey into a hot pan. Oh! The tear gas!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Broccoli puree update

Last night I "enriched" the leftover broccoli puree with some more broccoli (the reserved stems). This yielded a puree that wasn't quite so dark green in color, that was more strongly broccoli flavored, and that was still plenty rich. So the lesson for next time is: use less butter. :-)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Sunday Night: Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Pork, Roasted Carrots, Broccoli Puree with Beurre Noisette

Last night I made a couple different things in the interest of using up more of the CSA box. We ended up with a plate full of great food and wonderful color contrast.

The Broccoli Puree with Beure Noisette is an idea from JPFF and it's just amazing. The color and flavor of the puree is fabulous, even if I did put maybe a bit too much butter in the broccoli.

For the Roasted Carrots, I used a mixture of red and (light) orange carrots from the CSA box. These carrots are not especially sweet, so I roasted them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of B&vG spice rub (added about halfway through the cooking). I didn't make enough of these, but what was there sure did taste good.

To make the Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Pork, I followed the red cabbage recipe from How to Cook Meat, but I left out the caraway seed and used cider vinegar instead of red-wine vinegar. I brined some pork country ribs in a salt/sugar solution with juniper berries for a few hours. After about 30 minutes of cabbage braising, I browned the ribs in a separate pan, added a few of the juniper berries to the cabbage, nestled the pork pieces down into the cabbage, and continued to braise until the cabbage was done (about another 30 minutes). It wouldn't have hurt to braise the pork in the cabbage longer. This is just a great combination of flavors; it made me really happy.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Saturday Night: Sauteed Veggies with Polenta

The sauteed vegetables idea (from FStoS) is a great starting point, particularly when you have loads of vegetables in the fridge you need to use.

Last night's vegetable mix was carrots (CSA), potatoes, zucchini, celery, onion and garlic. I cooked the vegetables in the rendered fat from a couple strips of bacon and seasoned things with fresh thyme and bay leaves.

I served the finished vegetables on top of hard polenta (made without cheese) and topped them with the crumbled bacon and some truffle oil. Very good.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Thursday night leftovers

I looked in the freezer yesterday morning and realized that it was getting absurdly full of containers with leftovers. So, despite my desire to make new stuff, last night was reheated beans and meat, served with converted rice.
We also had flash-fried dino kale from our CSA box and a salad. As an aside: Trader Joe's Roasted Tomato Salsa makes a mean vinaigrette.

Wednesday night leftovers

I made more pasta casserole on Tuesday night than I intended, so we did leftovers on Wednesday night. Accompanying them were quick-fried radish greens (CSA box) and a salad.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tuesday Night: Pasta and Veggie Casserole

We're getting our first CSA box today, so the priority last night was to use up veggies from the fridge. This pasta casserole did so quite nicely.

1 pork loin chop, 1/2" dice
1/2 onion, medium dice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
16 oz canned tomatoes
red wine
2 zucchini, shredded
1 red bell pepper, medium dice
snow peas, coarsely chopped
mixed greens
salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper
mixed cheeses (parmesan, romano, aged gouda)

Salt and pepper the pork, brown it well in some olive oil, then remove from the pan.
Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat until they start to brown. Pour in the tomatoes, some red wine, and a generous amount of black and crushed red pepper. Cook for a bit, then add the zucchini, bell pepper, and snow peas. Cook a bit longer.
Add some breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce up if it's too soupy.
Mix the sauce, the greens, and the mostly cooked pasta together in a large bowl, spoon into a oiled baking dish, top with the cheese, and bake for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees, until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Sunday Night: Indian and Indian-inspired food

This started quietly, as a recipe for ham hocks and split peas and then spiralled completely out of control. That's not a bad thing on Sunday. :-)

On Saturday I ran across a recipe for smoked ham hocks served on split peas with Indian spices in How to Cook Meat and decided to do that for Sunday. As a side effect, I bought a South Indian cookbook Saturday afternoon (Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India). This cookbook is full of great pictures and recipes that sound amazing, so of course I immediately needed to make something from it. A rice dish seemed logical, so we went with "Mustard Seed Rice".

The next required step was a trip to an Indian supermarket to get some of the more obscure ingredients. The place we went once before in Mountain View is now a Mexican market, so we went down to Cupertino, using the theory that we would have no problem finding an Indian market in Cupertino. It took less than 5 minutes. As long as we were there, we stocked up on some other pulses that I'd seen mentioned in the book and a package of pappadums. I think that, aside from vegetables, we're now pretty much set to make a variety of different dishes without too much trouble.

The end results of all this shopping and planning and cooking were awfully damn good. And we've got plenty of leftovers.

I'm sure to say more about this book and the different cooking techniques it uses in the future.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Friday Dessert: Bittman's Date Cobbler

I was intrigued by this idea in last week's Minimalist column, but I didn't end up having a slot to make it until last night.

I didn't do the crust quite right (I should have only had crust under the batter, not on the sides as well), but the bars themselves are really tasty, if insanely rich. Bittman's not lying when he says 16 servings from an 8 inch square pan.

Friday Dinner: Pork Scallopini With Mushrooms and Quick Risotto with Peas

We don't normally cook on Friday, but last night was mandatory since I'd been out of town all week. I was starting to get the shakes. :-)

Both dishes originated in JPFF, but I modified the scallopini a reasonable amount because a) WF didn't have any pork tenderloin last night, and b) I like the combination of mushrooms and white wine a lot. Here's the revised recipe:

1 thick pork loin chop
all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated romano
1 cup good bread crumbs
1/3 onion, chopped
2-3 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
olive oil and butter as needed
salt and pepper
lemon slices and chives for serving

Mix the cheese, breadcrumbs, and a liberal amount of black pepper.
Cut the pork chop in half through the middle. Pound each half out until it's quite thin. Dredge the scallopini in the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumb mixture. Set the breaded scallopini on a rack to dry while you prep the other stuff and do whatever else is required to finish dinner.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick skillet and brown the scallopini for one to two minutes per side. I needed to do this in batches. Place the cooked pieces on a rack in the oven.
Add a Tbs or so of butter to the pan and let it cook over high heat until it stops frothing and is lightly browned. Throw in the onions and cook for a minute or two. Add the mushrooms and a good pinch of salt and continue to cook for a few minutes, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and started to brown. Add the white wine, cook for another minute or two, then adjust seasonings.
Serve the scalloppini topped with the mushroom sauce and chopped chives, with a slice of lemon on the side.

For the "risotto", I stuck to the JPFF recipe.

We had steamed zucchini along with the pork and rice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sunday Night Thai

I'm at a conference this week, so this'll probably be the last food entry until the weekend.

Last night we did a Thai night. I started with tom kha gai. I varied my standard approach by simmering the galangal, lime leaves, and lemon grass in the chicken stock for a while (30-40 minutes) and then straining that before making the soup. This gave a nicer flavor to the stock and avoided the "picking out the lemongrass" problem. Also: using galangal instead of ginger is good.

The other dish was a ground pork curry served over noodles (spaghetti). [I don't have the Thai cookbook with me to get the real name.] We somehow didn't have any curry powder in the house (a truly freakish event), so I substituted B&vG spice rub and some freshly ground cumin. I don't know what the dish was supposed to taste like, but what we ended up with was really, really good.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Saturday Night: Veal Stew with Vanilla and Asian Flavors

The recipe (Veal Stew with Vanilla) is from FStoS, and the results are really good.

I think this is the first time I've cooked with veal and I was amazed by the texture of it: it's totally different from other meats that I've worked with. The other veal recipes in FStoS just moved up a bit on the priority chart, as did making a proper veal schnitzel.

One note to myself for future runs at this particular recipe: I think the sauce would benefit from some reduction after straining, before adding the enrichments.

Saturday Breakfast: Coconut French Toast

This was a random inspiration that struck me this morning since we didn't really have much in the fridge for a nice weekend breakfast. The results were most satisfying.

1 egg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs sugar
unsweetened shredded coconut
sliced bread (I used two large, thick slices of pain de compagne. That was enough for the two of us).
butter, for cooking

Beat the egg with the cream, vanilla, and sugar. Soak the bread in the egg mixture, then dredge through the coconut and cook in butter over medium heat. Cover the pan while cooking and make sure that the coconut doesn't burn.

Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Thursday Night Disaster

It had been quite a while since I had a real screw-up in the kitchen that led to something inedible. Yesterday was my day to break that streak.

I set out to make something that used up the last of the leftover chicken and kielbasa, so I combined those things with dried navy beans, onions, garlic, celery, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, pepper flakes, tomato paste, white wine and water in the pressure cooker, sealed it up, and set it to cook. I then made a "sauce" by combining peeled red pepper, crushed garlic, fresh basil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and good olive oil in the mini-food processor. The idea was to serve the bean mixture over rice, topped with the sauce.

That was the theory.

After 35 minutes of cooking, the pressure cooker opened way too easily; there was pretty much no pressure. I'm not sure what happened here, because there was some hissing coming from the cooker; I guess it just wasn't enough. Needless to say, the beans weren't cooked at all.

So I closed the pressure cooker back up, brought it back to pressure, and let it cook another 35 minutes, over higher heat this time. As the thing cooked, tantalizing smells emerged, redolent of kielbasa and rosemary. After maybe 15 minutes, there was a strange note in the smell that I couldn't really place, oh well. After 35 minutes, when I was releasing the steam, that strange note became clear: burnt food.

Opening the pressure cooker revealed the extent of the mess: the sides of the pot were black and there was a thick layer of solid burnt crap on the bottom. Shit. Ruined! I ran a bunch of water into the pot, covered it, and put it on the back of the range to try and forget about it.

Dinner ended up being quickie omelets with ham and parmesan cheese, topped with the red-pepper sauce and served with rice. Those tasted good but were ugly as sin; my french omelet technique leaves pretty much everything to be desired. Gotta practice that!

General disaster comments:

  1. I think part of the problem was insufficient water in the pot. The book that came with the pressure cooker suggest adding extra water based on cooking time, and I didn't do that. Dumb.
  2. Another potential snag is the tomato paste. I'm suspicious about how easily the mess cleaned up and how it didn't really smell like burning beans. So maybe the sugar content of the tomato paste is just excessive for this. Probably better to add it after the cooker is open.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Wednesday Night: Caramelized Peaches

Last night's dinner was leftover pumpkin soup and chickpea ragout (a bit of pimenton was good!), so it wouldn't normally get an entry. But I did make dessert from a recipe in JPFF that completely fascinated me when I read it, so here I am.

The recipe, for canned peaches in caramel sauce, is really clever. The sauce is made by adding cream, lemon juice, and cognac to a caramel made from the syrup the peaches are packed in. That Jacques is crafty!

I lost my nerve a bit too early and didn't fully caramelize the sauce, an oversight that's easily fixed. We served the peaches over toasted brioche slices, with sauce drizzled all around. mmmmmmmm is it good.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Tuesday Night: Pumpkin Soup and Chickpea Ragout

I got a copy of Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way yesterday and made these two recipes to break it in. :-)

The pumpkin soup was really tasty but thinner than I expected. This could be a matter of bogus expectations or maybe I just added too much stock. Next time I make it, I'll measure the stock more carefully to be sure.

I added some fresh thyme (because it's in the fridge) and kielbasa to the chickpeas and used drained canned tomatoes. The results were gooood. Maybe next time I'll hit this with a bit of pimenton; I think a bit of smoky heat will go quite nicely.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Monday Night: Cannelloni with Potatoes and Arugula

To finish off the cannelloni wrappers from Sunday, last night I made another one of the FStoS cannelloni fillings: potatoes and arugula. I don't think I liked this one as much as the mixed greens filling, but it was still awfully damn good.

We had this with leftover roasted chicken and more mixed beans.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Sunday Night: Roast Chicken

It had been quite a while since I made a roast chicken, last night I corrected that.

The recipe I followed was from Bourdain; I thought about making the basic roast chicken with garlic and thyme from FStoS, but I was scared off by the amount of butter (10 Tbs!). Given that we had waffles yesterday and were going to have cannelloni with the chicken, that seemed excessive. I'll save this recipe for sometime that we're having the chicken with rice. I was also swayed by the fact that Bourdain's recipe includes a white wine-based pan sauce, which I thought would go well with the cannelloni.

Our oven isn't completely compatible with Bourdain's technique, so the skin on the breast got darker than I would have liked and the thighs still required a bit of time in the microwave upon emerging from the oven. This would irritate me, but I just pretend it's a feature when it comes time to reheat the chicken for leftovers. :-) Next time I'll put the chicken in the rack and do the "start it upside down" trick.

Still, the flavor of the chicken was great (I used a Rocky Jr. broiler from WF), the sauce was fantastic, and it matched nicely with the cannelloni and beans (frozen haricot verts, wax beans and carrots from TJs).

Sunday Night: Cannelloni with Greens

I've been meaning to try some of the cannelloni recipes in FStoS but somehow they didn't bubble up to the top of the "make this" stack until this weekend. I ended up making a half recipe of the filling for cannelloni with greens (spinach, arugula, mixed baby greens, basil) last night. I think I skimped a bit on the parmesan cheese, but the results were spectacular.

Andrea got a great before/after cooking picture of the greens that I need to put up somewhere.

Sunday Breakfast: Yeasted Waffles

I varied the standard recipe by adding about a tsp of microplaned ginger. It makes the waffles completely different, but quite good.

Restaurant microreview: Shiok!

On the way back from wine country, we stopped in Menlo Park and had dinner at Siok!

Nanoreview: well worth going back again.

Microreview: The service wasn't so good, but the food was. It's also nice to have an Indonesian restaurant that's not as chi-chi as Straits Cafe. The roti prata was excellent; I wasn't completely enthralled by the noodle dishes (though they were good); both the "fragrant chicken" - marinated in shrimp paste - and the beef rendang were really really good.

Saturday: Baby Wines and Limey Coleslaw

On Saturday we went up to Russian River valley with Jon and Cati for "Barrel tasting weekend". Tasting Zinfandels after they'd only been in the barrel for a couple of months was really fun. Unfortunately for the finished-wine-tasting part of the program, most places had a very limited selections of wines in their tasting rooms. Given what a toursity madhouse it was up there, I guess that makes sense.

Anyway, we had a picnic lunch, so I made a coleslaw with: lime juice, mayo, ground cumin and coriander, crushed thai chili flakes, and shredded savoy cabbage. I intended to sprinkle some cashews over this when we ate it but I, of course, forgot the cashews.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Well, that diagnosis was correct

Using less olive oil and cooking the steak longer led to an even more pleasing steak au poivre last night. Now pretty much only the stock needs improvement.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Wednesday Night: Steak au Poivre

On Sunday we bought a couple of nice looking ribeyes to make this dish. I've been aging them on a rack in the 'fridge (covered with a paper towel) since then.

I followed the recipe from Bourdain (though I only made a half portion, I'll do the rest tonight) and used the beef stock that I made this weekend. I used a bit too much olive oil to sear the steak and cooked it on the medium side of medium rare, but otherwise the results were very good. This is an amazing dish and, aside from the ingredient prep (making stock, aging steaks), is actually very quick.

We served it with mashed potatoes and leftover veggie gratin from Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Tuesday Night: Mixed Veggie Gratin

This was an improvisation to use up some of the vegetables left in the fridge while providing a convenient side dish for tonight's steak au poivre.

The vegetables were: zucchini, broccoli, red peppers, celery.
I steamed the broccoli and celery before adding them to the dish; I should have done the same with the zucchini but I stupidly decided that wasn't necessary.
The sauce was: chicken stock, sour cream, thyme, paprika, crushed red pepper, a beaten egg, salt and pepper.
The topping was: breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, chopped parsley, salt and pepper, olive oil.

The flavors were good, but the zucchini wasn't as tender as I would have liked. Adding garlic to the topping is a great touch.