Friday, April 29, 2005

Thursday night: Oven Hobo Pack

JPFF has a hobo pack recipe (potatoes and sausage cooked in foil, or something like that) that we made last night. Unfortunately Whole Foods had no kielbasa (how can that be???), so I substituted linguica. This wasn't really a good substitution -- the flavor is far too strong. Anyway, aside from the Wrong Sausage, this dish has great promise.

I also made asparagus sauteed with shallots (also from JPFF). That was really, really good. The longish sautee sweetens the shallots and they complement the asparagus beautifully.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tuesday Night: Spaghetti and Meatballs

I borrowed Cati's copy of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and I was intrigued by the first pasta sauce recipe: "Tomato Sauce with Onions and Butter", so last night I made up a batch and served it over spaghetti with some meatballs (out of the freezer) and steamed asparagus (WF is finally starting to get some good, thick asparagus in) on the side.

The sauce is incredibly simple: combine 16 oz chopped canned tomatoes with 5 Tbs of butter, a halved onion, and some salt in a pan; bring it to a low simmer and allow it to cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir it occasionally to prevent sticking and break up any tomato chunks. Remove the onion halves and adjust seasonings before serving. Add a pinch of sugar if the acidity seems too high.

As I enjoyed this dinner (really enjoyed!), I kept thinking things like: "Wow, this sauce is great. I bet it would be even better with some fresh basil or crushed red pepper." Then I would have to
smack myself and remember: "No, the beauty of the sauce is its utter simplicity."

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sunday Night: Chicken with Mushrooms

I came across a recipe for chicken and morels in a white-wine cream sauce while reading Jacque Pepin's Techniques yesterday morning. The recipe is straightforward, reasonably quick (particularly compared to some of the multi-day m0nsters in Techniques), and it sounded great.

So that's what we had for dinner last night. Since dried morels are obscenely expensive at Whole Foods, I used dried porcinis. These aren't the same, but they are awfully tasty.

The dish turned out great. I used to be really down on French cream sauces, for no good reason, but this was a beautiful example of combining a few simple but good ingredients (shallots, cream, white wine, sherry, pan drippings, mushrooms) and getting something amazing.

We had the chicken with some baked cauliflower, a loaf of pain de campagne, and a quick parsley salad (coarsely chopped parsley, red pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper) I made to act as an antidote to the richness of the chicken.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Quickie Mango Jam

Whole Foods had some really good mangoes on sale, so we bought five of them and I just threw together a quick mango jam. I want to record the quantities before I forget:

1 kg chopped mango
juice of 4 limes
4oog sugar

Throw everything in a pot and heat gently to the boil. While it's heating, use a hand blender to homogenize it some. When the jam reaches a boil, turn off the heat.

I don't have a final comment on the flavor of this stuff yet, but preliminary testing (on a biscuit from the other night) is very promising. :-)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Thursday night strawberries

Once again we had strawberries in our CSA box. These aren't quite as tasty as last time, but they're still damn good. I repeated the procedure from last time (macerate for a bit, serve with very soft whipped cream), but this time I served them on some biscuits. For the biscuits, I made a half-recipe of the standard biscuits from Bittman, using yogurt, and I added 1 Tbs of sugar to the batter.

Even though the strawberries weren't quite as good, the overall dessert was even better because of the biscuits. Thanks for the idea Paul!

Thursday night: Pork Stirfry with flash-fried greens

This was one of those "let's use up leftovers" stirfrys. I used pork chunks (marinated in ginger, soy sauce, garlic, dried chili, rice vinegar, corn starch and a bit of sugar), broccoli stems, onion, and mushrooms for the stir fry and then augmented the sauce with szechuan peppercorns, a bit of dark chicken stock and hoisin sauce. I should have put red bell pepper in the stirfry, but I forgot.

Accompanying this was some basmati rice (leftovers from Wed. night) and flash-fried dino kale with green garlic (both from the CSA box).

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wednesday Night: Braised Fish and Baked Cauliflower

Yesterday we got the most recent CSA box, so it's time to start "using up" veggies again.

The braised fish preparation is based on the "Braised Halibut Steaks with White Wine and Shallots" in FStoS, but I used mahi mahi fillets instead of halibut steaks and green garlic (CSA box) instead of shallots. The preparation is pretty simple:
Put a Tbs or two of butter in the bottom of a pan, top with 3 thinly sliced stalks of green garlic, top with two mahi mahi fillets (seasoned with salt and pimenton on both sides), pour in a cup of white wine. Bring to a boil on the stove top then transfer to the bottom of a 500 degree oven. Cook for about 8 minutes, turning the fish after 4. Remove the fish from the pan and monte au beurre with a tsp or so of butter if you want. Serve immediately.

As a side, we steamed a halved head of cauliflower until just tender, then topped each half with gruyère and threw them under the broiler until the cheese was bubbly and brown. mmm, bubbly brown gruyère.

We served the fish and cauliflower with rice and a salad.

This fish preparation is super good; the pimenton is a nice substitution (for cayenne) and worked well with the green garlic. Also: I definitely do like cauliflower... all those wasted years thinking otherwise! :-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Monday Night Leftovers

In order to use up the last of the ravioli filling, I tossed it into some rigatoni last night with a bit of cream and served it like that. Sausage and roasted garlic is gooood. :-)

We also finished off the french onion soup from Saturday. We need to get bigger ramekins so that I can get a good browned cheese layer on my onion soup!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Weekend cocktails

We did two cocktails this weekend. The first "The Last Resort" is adapted from Thrill of the Grill, the second we made up in order to use up "leftovers" from the first rounds.

The Last Resort
(makes a bit more than 2 big drinks)

12 oz guava juice
6 oz papaya juice
6 oz orange juice
4 oz coconut cream (skimmed from the top of a can of coconut milk)
4 oz grenadine
4 oz gold rum
2 splashes Meyers rum

Combine the juices, coconut, and grenadine in a jar and mix well (don't shake too much or it'll get all foamy). This mix is the same color as pepto-bismol, which I found hilarious.
Add a few ice cubes, 2 oz of gold rum, and a splash of Meyers to each of two 16 oz glasses, fill with the juice mixture, then transfer to a cocktail shaker. Shake well then strain back into the glasses. Add an ice cube or two and serve.

The original recipe includes pineapple juice and is supposed to be served frozen. We tried the first batch frozen and ended up liking it better on the rocks.

The Ruins of the Last Resort
(makes 2 big drinks)

8 oz guava juice
8 oz papaya juice
Juice of 2 limes
a good splash of grenadine
3 oz gold rum
2 splashes Meyers rum

Follow the same procedure as above for making the drinks.

Both of these cocktails are pretty strong, but you'd never notice from drinking them. They go down deliciously on a nice summery day. :-)

Sunday Night Excess

Yesterday ended up being an insane food day. We did:
Jerk Chicken Legs with Banana Guava Ketchup (from Thrill of the Grill)
Fried Plantains (served with banana guava ketchup that I zipped up with some habanero sauce).
Corn Flan (from a Minimalist recipe)
Chickpeas with bacon and garlic

Oh, and loads of cocktails, but that's for the next post.

The ketchup was a risky thing to make and when it was at the "bananas cooking in onions" stage I thought that maybe I had made a big mistake. But the end result is, as I expect from the boys, great. It also took that habanero sauce shot really well.

Some notes:

  1. Figuring out what to do with the remaining 24 oz of ketchup is going to be interesting. I sense Christmas gifts...
  2. This time when I made the corn flan, I measured out 2 cups of the milk-corn liquid after it steeped. The resulting custards set up much better this time and didn't have any unappealing extra liquid. For serving, I was able to get all fancy-pants and demold the flans onto plates and top them with chopped 'tro. whoo hoo! The corn flavor wasn't the greatest -- this is a stupid time of the year to be making anything with corn on the cob anyway.
  3. The jerk marinade wasn't as hot as I thought it was going to be, and cooking over mesquite charcoal didn't give much smokiness, but the chicken was still very good. Next time though, I'm going to use chicken wings and hardwood chunks/logs.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Saturday Night: Ravioli in Beurre Noisette with Sage

This was inspired by a dish we had last time we went to La Strada. Browned butter and ravioli is another wonderful combination.

For the filling:
1 lb hot italian sausage
5 scallions, thinly sliced
3 spring garlic cloves(?), thinly sliced
1 head roasted garlic.
black pepper to taste

Brown the sausage, remove from the pan, then sautee the scallions and spring garlic briefly in a bit of the sausage fat (discard the rest). Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and allow to cool.

For the pasta, I made a 2/3 recipe of the standard pasta dough, using semolina flour. I rolled the dough out to the second thinnest setting. To make it pretty, Andrea and I stuck sage leaves to the dough for its last couple of trips through the machine. This was gratuitous, but cute. :-) Andrea managed to get about 20 ravioli out of this quantity of dough.

To make the beurre noisette I threw a couple Tbs of butter in a pan over medium-high heat along with 10-15 sage leaves and cooked it until the butter was nice and brown and the sage leaves were crispy.

To serve, I poured the beurre noisette over the boiled and drained ravioli. (Actually, that's what I intended to do, in reality the ravioli took longer to cook than I thought so I had to put the butter on the plates first. You can't leave beurre noisette in a hot pan or it will turn into beurre noir in no time at all.)


  1. It wouldn't have hurt to start working the herbs into the dough a bit sooner.
  2. It might be a good idea to roll the dough to the thinnest setting and then make the pasta by folding the dough instead of laying one sheet over the other.
  3. The filling would be nicer if it held together better. To do this I think the cooked sausage and alliums should be combined with some bread crumbs and an egg, then formed into balls. I think that we can get a nice softer filling this way.

Saturday Night: French Onion Soup

Last week Karen got me thinking about making french onion soup. Since there was time yesterday to do it properly, I made a pot for dinner.

Because onion soup needs a good stock, I started off by making a batch of "jus roti" (dark chicken stock) derived from the recipe in FSToS:

2 pounds chicken wings, cut into segments
2 chicken backs, cut into pieces
6 cups water
1 stalk celery, large dice
1 carrot, large dice
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
~ 1 tsp black pepper corns
salt to taste
EV olive oil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Add a couple Tbs of olive oil to a roasting pan and dredge the chicken pieces in it. Place the pan as close to the bottom of the oven as possible and lay a piece of foil over the top (to prevent oil from splattering all over the inside of the oven and making a big smoky mess). Roast for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the chicken pieces are nicely browned. Add the onion, celerly, carrot, and garlic and continue to roast for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer as much of the contents as possible to a stock pot. Add a cup or so of water to the roasting pan and stir over heat to deglaze. Transfer this to the stock pot. Add the remaining ingredients to the stock pot, cover, and place over medium-low heat. Allow the stock to simmer for an hour or so, then strain it, allow it to cool, and skim the fat.

The resulting stock should be quite dark and nicely gelatinous when cooled.

For the soup itself, I used this stock and followed the recipe in Bourdain, though I doubled the suggested amounts of balsamic vinegar and port. The results were very, very good. Combined with the ravioli (see next post), both Andrea and I ended up very happy at the end of the meal. :-)

Friday, April 15, 2005

Thursday Night at the Improv

Last night I did a bit of improvisation that ended up being really good. We had pureed black beans, "mexican rice", and scallops with green garlic and a cilantro-lime-butter sauce.

For the black beans I threw the following in the pressure cooker: 1 cup of dried beans, half a chopped onion, 2 chopped ribs of celery, about a Tbs of cumin seeds, 2 1/2 cups water, salt, pepper, and about a Tbs of cider vinegar. About 40 minutes after sealing it up, we had finished black beans that pureed nicely with the hand blender.

For the mexican rice, I sauteed some about a Tbs of cumin seeds, 1 diced onion and three miced garlic cloves in some olive oil. Then I added a few Tbs of salsa sauteed more, added 1 cup of converted rice and sauteed a bit longer, until the rice started to toast. I added 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, covered the pot and simmerd it over low heat until the rice was done.

For the scallops I sauteed three thinly sliced stalks of green ginger in a couple Tbs of butter until they started to brown, then added half a pound of bay scallops and a bit of black pepper and ground coriander. After the scallops were basically done, I added the juice of one lime, some chopped cilantro, and a bit of sugar (to balance the lime juice).

This was a resounding success! Though it sounds like there may be some flavor clashes, the sauce from the scallops made a fantastic enrichment for the bean puree, so it all came together nicely.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Wednesday Dessert: Apple "Pancake"

Last night's dinner was the last of the Indian food from Tuesday. The salad was even better after a night of flavor melding in the 'fridge.

Dessert was another JPFF recipe that's been calling to us for a while. Though JP calls it a "pancake", it contains little enough flour (3/4 cup for 3 eggs), that I'm not so sure about that name. Andrea compared it to a German Kasekuchen, and that fits really well. so basically we had a Apfelkasekuchen.

Regardless of what we call it, the dessert was really good: the batter was surprisingly light and the combination wasn't overly rich. We'll be making this again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tuesday Night: Indian

We had some eggplant that really needed to be used. So last night we made two things from Dakshin. The main course was "Eggplant Rasavangy" and Andrea made a "Mixed Vegetable Curd Salad".

In order to be able to make the eggplant thing on a weeknight, I prepared the lentils in the pressure cooker (instead of waiting 1.5 hours for them to cook on the stovetop). My pressure cooker instructions claim that lentils take 6 minutes at pressure. I either screwed up when I started the timer (badly) or that is way too long for the red lentils I used yesterday. When I opened the pressure cooker, I found a paste inside. Still, I think that's ok for this dish; it thickened the sauce beautifully.

After having made a few things, I feel like I'm beginning to get the hang of this style of cooking (confusion about types of dal aside): the various stages are starting to make some sense in how they fit together.

We really have no way of knowing if these things are turning out "right", but both of us are pretty damn happy with what we end up eating, so that's just fine. :-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Monday Night Leftovers

Yesterday I thawed the leftover "veal stew with vanilla and asian flavors" we had back in March and we had that with rice, steamed zucchini, leftover broccoli puree, and salad.

Aside from the mushiness of the snow peas, the stew didn't really suffer from being frozen and reheated. I let it simmer for a while before serving to thicken the sauce a bit. This didn't cause any problems with the sauce breaking, and the result was deeeelicious.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sunday Night: Steamed Fish with Orach and Spring Garlic

Due to various social events, this weekend had less cooking than usual. Last night's dinner was really the only meal I made.

This week's Minimalist recipe got me thinking in the direction of fish steamed on greens. This was reinforced by the appearance of a bag of orach in our CSA box. Here's what I did:

Thinly sliced green garlic (~1/4 cup)
Orach, cleaned and with the thicker stems removed
white wine (~1/2 cup)
fish fillets (we used mahi mahi)
olive oil
salt, pepper, and cayenne

Sweat the garlic in some olive oil with a bit of salt for a few minutes, until it softens. Add the orach, top with the fish (sprinkled with salt, pepper and cayenne), pour in the white wine, and cover. Set the heat to medium low and steam until the fish is done. Serve with rice to soak up the fabulous purple/pink sauce.

For color/theme contrast, we accompanied this with some broccoli puree with beurre noisette.

mmmmm good. And with a great color!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Thursday dessert: strawberries and cream

There were strawberries in this week's CSA box. And, miracle of miracles, they were actually pretty good. So for dessert last night I sliced them thickly, macerated with some sugar for about 15 minutes, then served them topped with some cream whipped to very soft peaks with a bit of sugar and vanilla.
mmmmmmm, strawberries and cream.

Thursday dinner: baked pasta casserole

After a couple of nights of finishing off leftovers, last night I got to cook again. We went fairly simple: baked pasta casserole (following the outline of Bittman's baked ziti recipe, but using spirals and a mixture of sausage and chopped up meatballs, from the freezer), steamed broccoli, quick-fried radish greens (from the CSA box), and salad.

I made a "vinaigrette" for the salad using some pickle brine and EV olive oil that was good on the salad but fantastic on the broccoli.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Monday Night: Baked Tuna Steaks

We had some frozen albacore tuna steaks (from TJ's, of course) thawed on Saturday that we didn't get around to eating after the picnic, so those needed to be used up. This idea has been kicking around in the back of my head for a while now, so last night was as good a time as any.

Here's the recipe:

Two tuna steaks (4 servings for us)
1 good-sized clove garlic, minced
1/2 a small white onion, thinly sliced
a couple sprigs of fresh thyme
a big pinch of fresh cilantro leaves
1-2 Tbs white wine
1 Tbs good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Pour the oil onto a big piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Dredge the tuna steaks through the oil, then salt and pepper both sides liberally. Put the steaks on the foil and top with the onion, garlic, thyme, and cilantro. Pour the wine around the steaks and seal the foil package well. Bake for 25-30 minutes, the serve with sauce spooned over the tuna.

This turned out really, really well. The combination of white wine, thyme, and cilantro is unusual and very good.

We ate the tuna with a romaine salad, some steamed zucchini (steamed with a bit of fresh rosemary and topped with a teeny amount of cream), and oven-roasted potatoes with chipotle mayonnaise (mmm, wonderful flashbacks to "Just a Taste" in Ithaca).

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sunday Night Indian

Last night I made two more recipes from Dakshin: "Standard Sambar" and "Potato Masala". The potato masala was familiar from Indian restaurants, but the sambar is something new.

We were supposed to use red ("toor") dal in the sambar, but I somehow ended up with something completely different (moth peas). So we made the sambar with the moth peas.

For the vegetable in the sambar I used drumstick, which we got frozen at the Indian grocery. Drumstick seems to be related to okra. It's pretty funny to prepare food that is completely new, using ingredients that are also different - Andrea had to google for what the hell we were supposed to do with the drumstick. :-)

Anyway, we have no real way of evaluating how "right" the results were, but both Andrea and I thought the food was great. And that's all that really matters.

Sunday Bread

I've been forgetting to comment on bread making recently since I pretty much always follow the same recipe. Yesterday I made a small variation by replacing an additional 30 grams of bread flour with whole wheat flour (92 grams of WW total), everything else was the same.

I didn't notice much difference in flavor with sandwiches... mabye with toast.

Sunday Morning Crepes

Yesterday for breakfast I decided to try the buckwheat crepe recipe in FStoS for the first time; things went not so well.

First of all, you're supposed to let the batter rest for at least an hour after after assembling it; I stupidly didn't read the recipe until we were ready to eat, so I didn't do this.

Secondly, the batter that results from following the recipe is *way* too thick to be crepe batter. I suppose that this might theoretically change with resting, but normally that goes the other way (things thicken as the starch grains swell), so I doubt it. Anyway, I kept adding milk until I had something with the right thickness. I probably ended up tripling (!) the amount of milk in the recipe. This is very, very odd considering that the recipes in this book have normally been completely reliable. It's enough to make me want to try and find an email address for Mark Bittman and ask him.

The resulting crepes were ok, but they were pretty grainy. I guess that this would probably be solved by the resting that I didn't allow the batter to do. We still have some buckwheat flour left, so next time I'll answer this question.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Saturday: Chipotle-lime mayonnaise

This is a standard mayo variation that turned out great.

1 egg yolk
juice of 1 lime
two chipotles in adobo
1 cup canola oil
a good pinch of kosher salt and grind of black pepper

Throw the egg yolk, lime juice, chillis, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor with about a Tbs of the oil. [Note: I'm willing to do loads of "extra" work as part of cooking, but making mayo by hand strikes me as a sucker's game.] Blend well. With the machine on high, slowly add the remaining oil in a continuous stream. That's it.

Saturday Picnic Food: Red cabbage slaw

We needed something to take to Jon's birthday picnic and had a head of red cabbage left from the CSA box, so coleslaw seemed to be a natural.

I shredded the head of cabbage and mixed it with chipotle-lime mayonnaise (see next post), salt, some cider vinegar, and some toasted cumin seeds. The results were gooood.

Friday Night: Devil Shrimp and rice

This was a quick toss-together meal inspired by the "Devil Shrimp" recipe in JPFF.

We didn't have scallions, so I used some chopped chives and red onion as the allium component of the recipe and I added some freshly ground szechuan peppercorns to zip stuff up a bit. I served it with sticky rice to soak up the sauce.