Monday, July 25, 2005

Sunday Grilling

Yesterday I thawed the top sirloin steak from our cow and grilled it up using the "high plains drifter style" recipe from How to Cook Meat. This recipe uses a rub with mustard, fresh oregano (I used marjoram), paprika (I used a combination of pimenton and sweet paprika), garlic, and red wine vinegar. It's plenty assertive. :-)
I clearly have not mastered the art of grilling with a wet rub -- I had the classic problem of "all the rub sticks to the grate", even though I let the damn thing site, unmolested, for at least 5 minutes. Maybe I need to use a cooler fire (this was in the very hot range) and let it set even longer.
Still, we ate the steak with reserved rub on the side and it was delicious.

To accompany the steak, I grilled some cipollini onions (CSA) and did a hobo pack with mushrooms (brown, shitake, and white), garlic, onion, and beet greens (CSA). We also had a summer salad derived from the summer pasta salad in JPFF, the big difference was that I used potatoes (CSA) instead of the pasta. I haven't made this with the pasta, but it sure as hell was good with potatoes. It was also a good way to use up CSA summer squash and basil.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Things not to do in the kitchen

While chopping herbs by using the "knife rocking" method, don't forget that you need to pay extra special attention if you've been drinking. Definitely do not allow yourself to get distracted and then go through this little thought train: "wow, my fingers are too close to the blade, this is pretty dangero... OW! FUCK!". Aside from the pain, the damage you do to your middle finger will make any subsequent chopping you have to do somewhat less than enjoyable.

Stupid me.

Saturday Night SE Asian

Yesterday we picked up some snapper at the PA farmers market and used that to direct a Southeast Asian menu. Two of the dishes -- "minced fish salad" and "buffalo and lemongrass patties" -- are from an NYT article Amanda Hesser did on Laos; the other, for "sticky rice cakes with scallions" is from FStoS.

Neither Andrea nor I was overly impressed with the fish salad. It was good, but it wasn't as good as some of the other ceviche-type preps that we do, certainly not as good as the kokoda was. Part of the problem is that the other ingredients are a bit too assertive for the snapper; the fish ended up serving as merely texture. Also, the marinade is just lime juice and fish sauce, so it's not a particularly pleasing sauce; the final dish is a bit dry.

The buffalo patties were good, but they could have used a sauce. And, since I did them in a dry nonstick pan (the recipe does suggest a dry pan), they didn't end up particularly crunchy on the outside. This would be easily solved with a bit of oil.

The rice cakes were the star of the show. I made them with sweet rice instead of sticky rice (that's what we have), which means that the raw material (batter? dough?) wasn't going to be easily forming patties. This wasn't a problem though -- I just spooned a portion out into the pan and quickly flattened it. I modified the sauce by adding a bit of honey to it, I like the way sweet balances the lime in these sauces.

Here's about what I did:

1 1/2 c sweet rice
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 c. 'tro, finely chopped
1 Tbs butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

Cook the rice following Bittman's method 2, when it's done (and still warm), add it to a bowl with the butter, scallions, 'tro, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, then mix in the egg.
Spoon portions out into a hot pan with canola oil and quickly flatten them into patties.
saute for about five minutes on each side, until nicely browned and crisp.

While the patties are cooking, make the sauce by melting another Tbs of butter in a pan with a Tbs of good soy sauce, the juice of one lime, 1/2 tsp (or thereabouts) honey, and a good couple grinds of pepper. Whisk together and taste for balance.

Serve the rice cakes hot, topped with the sauce.

I like these suckers so much, I'm going to make some for breakfast -- assuming Andrea doesn't veto the idea. :-)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Thursday night: Salmon cakes, roasted potatoes, sauteed summer squash

It wasn't planned this way, but last night somehow ended up being a big cooking night.The salmon cakes came about because we had some meat from salmon backs that really needed to be used up (I'm not sure why I thawed these earlier in the week, but there ya go.). The other two dishes are an attempt to stay on top of the CSA box.

Salmon Cakes with Basil Vinaigrette

The vinaigrette here is adapted from "Jean-George's Vinaigrette" in FStoS.

for the salmon cakes:
2 cups flaked cooked salmon
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup good bread crumbs
fresh lemon thyme
two big spoonfuls mayo
sweet paprika
salt and pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine all the ingredients except the egg, mix gently, and adjust seasonings.
Gently stir in the egg.
Form four patties and let them stand in the fridge for a while to firm up.
Sautee in olive oil until each side is nicely browned.

for the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup balsamico
2 tsp honey
1 small clove garlic, crushed
8-12 basil leaves (CSA box), julienned
4 Tbs canola oil, 2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs hot water
salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients except the water in a food processor/blender and blend on medium high until emulsified. Add the water in small portions, blending each time to make sure everything stays nicely emulsified. Adjust seasonings.

Serve the hot salmon cakes with a bit of vinaigrette spooned over them and the rest in a bowl on the side.

These turned out really nicely; I'm very happy with how the vinaigrette complements the salmon.

Roasted Potatoes

Quarter a bunch of small potatoes and toss them in a baking dish, salt and pepper liberally, add olive oil, and bake at 425 until they're done. Stir every 10 minutes or so. A couple minutes before they are done, add a small amount of chopped fresh rosemary.

The potatoes I used for this were from our CSA box and they were amazing. That's a funny word to use for potatoes, but they were really, really good -- with a substantial, creamy texture and great flavor. mmmmm

Sauteed Summer Squash

For this I used cubed summer squash (CSA), very coarsely chopped wax peppers (CSA), chopped garlic, and diced onion. I sauteed these in olive oil for a couple minutes with some sweet paprika, salt, and pepper, added chicken broth and a bit of white wine, covered and simmered until the squash was soft. A minute or two before serving, I added some fresh thyme and marjoram.

On a normal night, this would have been a star, but last night it was overshadowed by the other goodness on the plate. :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tuesday Night: Pasta with leeks and parsley; white beans

The pasta recipe is from a Bittman column from back in March. I more or less followed the recipe except that I thinly sliced the garlic and let it get almost browned before adding the leeks to the pan. The results are unsurprisingly good, considering the source and the ingredients.

I actually made the white beans on Monday night, to accompany the leftover tuna and salad, but I forgot to write them up yesterday. I did a standard white bean prep with a bit of tuscan salame for flavor. I'm not overjoyed with the texture of the beans I ended up with -- I think soaking is required to get good white beans and I was too late for that. Ah well... next time.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Sunday Night: Big Salad with Tuna

This was a preparation that evolved as I was making it. My original idea was to do a tuna escabeche (similar to this one from May) and then serve that as sandwiches with spinach, marinated onions, and leftover sauce from this weekend's salmon. Somehow that idea morphed into making a big salad inspired by salade nicoise.

The salads were built on a base of mixed greens (CSA box), romaine lettuce, and baby spinach. On top of this I put, in individual piles:

  1. chunks of tuna and onion slices (see below)
  2. diced tomato and red bell pepper slices
  3. halves of baby yellow potatoes
  4. diced pickle
  5. diced summer squash (CSA box) that had been salted in a strainer for 30 minutes, well rinsed, and squeezed out
  6. a quartered boiled egg
I spooned leftover "salmon sauce" over the potatoes and tomato/red pepper piles, extra marinade over the tuna pile, and then drizzled good olive oil over the whole plate. We ate the salad with toast and a glass of rose. This was a very nice summertime meal.

For the tuna:
1 pound albacore tuna
1 onion, very thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
chopped herbs (I used parsley, 'tro, and tarragon, maybe 1 cup total)
juice of 2 limes
juice and seeds from a tomato
good olive oil
dry white wine (pinot grigio)
1-2 tsp sweet paprika
salt and pepper

Cut the tuna into large (two bite) pieces, dry the pieces, and salt and pepper them liberally. Brown the tuna pieces in olive oil (in batches if necessary).
Meanwhile combine the onion, garlic, herbs, paprika, tomato, and lime juice with some good olive oil and wine in a baking dish and mix well.
When the tuna is browned, transfer it directly to the dish. Add more wine and oil until the fish is mostly covered.
Cover the dish with plastic and transfer to the fridge. Let it marinade for an hour or so, turning the fish every so often.

Saturday Night: Slow-cooked salmon, grilled fruit

This weekend Jon organized a group trip up to the Carnegie's cabin in Inverness. My food contribution was to make a salmon dish from JPFF ("Oven-baked salmon with sun-dried tomato and salsa mayonnaise") for Saturday's dinner. Jolie made some great sides (sauteed sugar snap peas and tomatoes stuffed with Israeli couscous) to accompany the salmon and there was a salad Cati made on Friday.

This is a slow-cooked salmon recipe, so based on that set of expectations the fish was badly overcooked (I timed the fish badly relative to when other stuff was going to be finishing, stupid on my part). Of course, badly overcooked slow-cooked fish means that it's cooked to a standard level of doneness, so the salmon was actually ok. Not at all what I was trying to serve, but still quite tasty.

For dessert I grilled some pineapple and banana and served them with vanilla ice cream and a lime-rum caramel:

1 cup sugar
1-2 Tbs water
6 Tbs butter
1 lime
dark rum (Meyers)

Place the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat. Swirl occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Allow the caramel to cook, mostly undisturbed, until you're happy with the color (I like to let it go until fairly dark and just starting to smell "bitter").
Add the butter and mix until it's well incorporated.
Stir in the lime juice and let it cook a couple minutes.
Add a good pinch of salt and a couple Tbs of rum.
Serve with grilled fruit over ice cream.

This recipe sacrifices some of the fun of a rum caramel because the concentration of alcohol isn't high enough to get it to flame off (at least it wasn't this weekend), but it still ends up tasting fabulous. I'm a complete sucker for lime and caramel.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Wednesday Night: Simple Pasta, Squash Patties

Last night we finished off the last two squash patties from Tuesday. To go with them I made a batch of tomato sauce with onion and butter, the beautifully simple sauce from Marcella Hazan.

This sauce really is remarkable: it looks like straight up tomato sauce from a can (well, a bit brighter than that), but it has fantastic flavor. At least it does when I make it with my canned tomatoes; who knows how good it is when made with "normal" canned tomatoes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tuesday: Broiled Shrimp and Sauteed Squash Patties

The squash patties (grated squash with onion and parsley, held together with egg and bread crumbs, then dredged in breadcrumbs), recipe from Bittman, used up yet another CSA summer squash and were really good.

The shrimp, adapted from the "My Shrimp" recipe in Bittman, went like this for two big servings:

3/4 pound peeled, deveined shrimp (20-30 count), rinsed and patted dry
2 big cloves garlic, julienned
1/2 tsp freshly ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp pimenton
olive oil
parsley, finely chopped

Add enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom to a 12" oven-safe pan. Place over low heat and add the garlic. Cover and let cook for 5-10 minutes (low heat) until it smells really good. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Place under the broiler until the shrimp are done, 5-10 minutes.
Transfer the shrimp to plates, spoon some of the beautiful red oil over the top, and garnish with parsley.

This was mighty good. The only problem was that we didn't have any crusty bread to soak up the oil -- my multigrain bread, though tasty, just isn't right for that task.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Monday Night: Broccoli and Squash with Browned Butter

Last night we had poule au pot from Sunday as our main course. As a vegetable, I steamed some CSA broccoli and summer squash and served it topped with browned butter. Broccoli and browned butter is an amazing combination.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Sunday night: Poule au Pot with dumplings

Last night I made poule au pot following Bittman's "Chicken in a pot" recipe. The only real variation was that I added a couple stalks of celery (cut in half) to the stock. I removed the celery before serving, because who wants to eat mushy cooked celery? We topped the bowls with a bit of fresh parsley and chives.

For the dumplings I used a variant on a Niederrheinische Kloss recipe:
65 g melted butter
50 g coarse bread crumbs
125 g flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix gently, but thoroughly. If the dough seems too dry, add a bit of butter.
Gently form golfball sized (or a bit smaller) dumplings and cook in a boiling stock.

I thought the dumplings were good, but Andrea prefers herbed potato dumplings. Maybe next time I'll try adding some fresh herbs to these.

We accompanied this with some sauteed summer squash (CSA box) using the "Crisp fried cucumbers and lemon" recipe in Bittman. This tasted really good, but were kind of a pain in the ass and didn't end up particularly crispy.

Saturday Lunch: Shrimp sandwiches

, I'm behind again. This weekend was busy.

For lunch on Saturday, I made one of the quickie suggestions from JPFF.

Put a couple slices of cheese (I used cheddar) in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, top with 3-4 peeled and deveined raw shrimp and some thinly sliced onion. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes, until the shrimp are nice and pink. Add a spoonful of salsa, cook uncovered until the salsa is warmed. Serve on top of pita bread, with some chopped lettuce, 'tro, and more salsa on the side.

This was really nice and we'll definitely do it again. It would probably benefit from using a firmer cheese (JP recommends mozarella or manchego), but we didn't have that. The cheddar tasted really good, but it definitely melts all over the place.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Thursday Dessert: Strawberry Crepes

Dinner was leftover curry and noodles, mmm. For dessert we needed to eat our CSA strawberries (ooo, what a terrible demand on us!).

Andrea had hulled and halved the strawberries and macerated them on Wednesday night, so for last night's dessert we just added a splash of grappa to the macerated berries, whipped up some cream, and made some crepes following Bittman's recipe (1/2 c flour, 5 oz milk, 1 egg, 1 Tbs melted butter, pinch salt). We rolled the berries in crepes, topped with the cream and remaining liquid, added a sprig of mint, ate, and made all kinds of happy noises.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Wednesday Curry

We had some coconut milk, lemongrass, and green papaya (well, kind of green at least) hanging around from the weekend, so I did a bit of curry last night.

We started with an approximation to som tum (green papaya salad: julienned papaya, fish sauce, garlic, chilies) that turned out kind of "eh". The papaya was too ripe and picked up too much salt from the salting process (maybe because it was too ripe?), so the texture was off and the salad was overly salty. There's potential here, but it was unrealized. :-)

For the curry sauce I used masaman curry paste, lemon grass, keffir lime leaves, garlic, dried chilies, coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice (usual preparation). The veggies were bok choy (CSA), broccoli (CSA), and red pepper; and the protein was bay scallops. I stir fried the veggies and scallops and set them aside, then stir fried some broad rice noodles with a bit of the sauce, added the other components for a couple minutes to make sure everything was hot, added additional sauce, and served topped with some fresh 'tro.

The curry was gooood.

I need to put curry paste on my list of things to make some weekend.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tuesday Night: Panzanella

Since I made bread over the weekend, we had half a loaf of store-bought pain de compagne to use up. Panzanella seemed like a pretty good way of doing that, so here's what I did:

1/2 loaf pain de compagne, cut into 1/2"-1" cubes
2 tomatoes
4 scallions, thinly sliced including some green
1 red pepper, chopped medium
fresh parsley, chopped medium
salt, pepper to taste
olive oil, lemon juice, balsamico

Remove the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes and put them in a large bowl. Whisk those together with olive oil, lemon juice, balsamico, salt, and pepper to make a dressing. Add the bread cubes, toss well and let them soak.
Coarsely chop the flesh from the tomatoes and add them to the bread along with all the other ingredients.
Adjust seasonings and let thing stand for a bit.
Serve topped with good olive oil.

Things that I bet would be good to add to this:

  1. Anchovies for the sauce
  2. Arugula or some other bitter green
  3. Cucumber

We had spags with pesto (from last week) to accompany the salad. And there was much rejoicing. :-)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Fourth of July BBQ Stuff

Yesterday I made a couple things for a 4th of July BBQ with friends:

  1. Syrian beef kebabs from this NYT article. Pine nuts in kebabs are good. These were served on flat bread with a simple romaine, cucumber, onion salad.
  2. A lime pie with mango topping from Big Flavors. This pie tasted good, but was a complete mess. The filling (a lime custard) never really set up, so the "pie" was more like "sauce in a graham cracker crust". This should be a lesson to me, but there are so many things I could learn from the experience that I'll just walk away with: "this is why I don't normally do fancy desserts". I'm sure that lesson will suffer the same fate as the "don't deep fry in the house without proper equipment" thing. :-)
  3. More watermelon-raspberry-ginger punch.
  4. I also made a loaf of bread for us. First bread in the new oven, we'll see how it turned out today.

Monday, July 04, 2005


This is adapted from The Appetizer Atlas: A World of Small Bites, by Arthur L. Meyer. I haven't actually seen the cookbook (this is from an search result), but this recipe certainly turned out well.

1 1/2 pounds very fresh red snapper, cut into bite-sized chunks
juice of 3 large limes
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 c thick coconut milk (skimmed from the top of a can that's been sitting for a while)
1 small sweet onion, minced
4 green onions (including some green), very thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 dried thai chilis, minced
1 green papaya, cut into chunks the same size as the fish, salted and drained
salt to taste

Marinate the fish in lime and salt for 3 hours (in the fridge).
Add the other ingredients, mix well, and let rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Serve with sticky rice and lettuce.

This version of the recipe is quite different from the one that we've been making (from Andrea's Lonely Planet Fiji), which includes tomato instead of papaya. Both are good, but I think I'd prefer this one when the papaya is available.

Next time I might include more papaya and dice it a bit smaller.

Sunday Dinner

We ended up making the Cucumber-Coconut Gazpacho from FStoS, a Kokoda recipe I found on the web (next entry), and hasty pudding with apricot sauce from JPFF. Jon and Cati brought over a couple of vegetable salads from the CSA box. We ate very well. :-)


  1. For the soup, I used sriracacha instead of tabasco; I think that's more appropriate and it worked great
  2. As I was making the hasty pudding I realized that I was working a bechamel sauce gone horribly wrong. But it sure did taste great. :-)

Saturday: Watermelon Raspberry Punch

The basic recipe for this is from Let the Flames Begin, my change was adding the wine. :-)

2 cups seeded watermelon chunks
1/2 package frozen raspberries
1 inch of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
juice of 1 lime
sugar to taste
spring water
white wine (we used pino grigio, but a riesling would probably work too)

Blend the fruit, ginger and sugar. Strain out the damn raspberry seeds. Assemble the drinks in proportion: 3 oz fruit puree, 3 oz soda water, 2 oz wine.

There's not enough wine in these things to do any real harm, but it is a nice addition to the basic punch in terms of flavor.

Saturday Night: Slow-cooked salmon with crunchy lemongrass topping.

This is a recipe from FStoS and it's absolutely great. I made the supplemental sauce (lime juice, coconut milk, fish sauce, mellowed out with a bit of sugar... amazing that this wasn't in the book) and served it with sticky rice.

Refinement for next time: remove the skin before cooking salmon this way. The recipe calls for leaving it on, but the cooking technique leaves it limp and unappealing; so remove it.

Beside the fish we had some steamed summer squash (CSA) with a bit of thyme (CSA). This didn't flavor match at all, but it was tasty. :-)

Saturday Lunch: Smoked salmon and goat cheese

I'm behind! I'm behind!

This was a throw-together inspired by something in JPFF that turned out really well:

Good smoked salmon, thinly sliced (we used Scottish salmon)
Plain chevre
parsley leaves
green onion,thinly sliced
good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
toasted pain de compagne

Roll goat cheese in the salmon slices, top with the parsley, green onion, and capers. Sprinkle on some salt and grind a bit of pepper. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top, drizzle with the oil and serve with the toast on the side.