Monday, October 31, 2005

Sunday Dinner Party

Jon and Cati did a petite sirah tasting last night followed by dinner. I brought a chicken-squash stew (from Big Flavors), served in a pumpkin, and a big pan of cornbread. For the stew, which ended up really nice, recipe deviations were:

  1. I used chicken thighs instead of a cut up whole chicken. I boned the thighs and diced the meat after it was finished cooking so that the stew was easier to eat.
  2. I used self-canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones.
  3. I replace 1 Tbs of the cayenne with 1 tsp of smoked paprika; I thought the flavor of the paprika would work well and I didn't want to blow peoples' heads off too quickly.
  4. I didn't add the lemon juice to the stew, but put it in a pitcher on the table for people to add on their own. I was afraid that the lemon would not go well with the wine, so I wanted to offer people the choice.
For future reference: I think this actually was a good pairing with the bigger petite sirahs we tried.

Saturday Night Quiche

I realized that it had been quite a while since I made a quiche, and quiche is good, so Saturday that's what I did.
As usual I used the crust recipe from Bittman, replacing 1 Tbs of cold water with cider vinegar.
The egg-base for the filling was also from Bittman (6 eggs, 2 cups milk). I also added some cubed bacon, spinach [CSA], minced onion, and smoked paprika.

To accompany the quiche, which was excellent, we had some broccoli sauteed with garlic in butter, topped with minced shallots.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Thursday Leftovers

To go along with the leftover steak au poivre from Wednesday night, we made a quickie pasta sauce using some sauteed eggplant [CSA] and the leftover tomato sauce from the weekend. We also had a green salad.
mmm, leftovers

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wednesday Night: Steak au Poivre

I made this from the recipe in Bourdain using the piece of ribeye (from our cow) that's been aging in the fridge since Monday. The aging definitely helped some in improving the flavor of the meat, but we still weren't thrilled with it. The sauce was, as expected, delicious.

We had the steak with leftover gratin from Tuesday and some sauteed spinach.

Tuesday Night Gratin

er, I'm a bit behind on this one. On Tuesday night I made another potato-celery root gratin, this time sticking more or less to the potato gratin recipe in How to Cook Meat (well, I added sauteed onions and bacon).

This turned out very well: getting the quantities right and pre-boiling the potatoes in the milk/cream mixture actually really helps (imagine that!). The one problem is that the pre-boiling technique precludes getting nice layers in the gratin dish. Oh well.

We had the gratin with the leftover ribeye with parsley/sherry sauce and figs from Monday night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Monday night: steak and leftovers

Last night I made the entree we had originally planned for Sunday: "pan-seared delmonico steakwith parsley-sherry sauce and roasted figs", from How to Cook Meat, using one of the ribeyes from our cow. The dish was good, but Andrea and I were kind of disappointed by the flavor of the steak itself -- it just wasn't as good as some of the other cuts we've had. The other half of that package of beef is drying in the fridge, so we'll see if that makes a difference tomorrow.

To accompany the steak, we had leftover rice pilaf (from stuffing squash on Saturday) and potato-celery root gratin along with a green salad.

An aside: though it's not as nice while entertaining, it certainly is convenient to be able to close the kitchen door when doing pan-seared steaks!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sunday Night: Gratin and Salad

After yesterday's hike I didn't have the energy/motivation to make the full dinner I had planned, so we just made a gratin with potato [CSA], celery root, onion, shallots, bacon, and Emmenthaler. To accompany that we had a big green salad. It's nice to have cooler weather so that we can start having more gratins and stews. :-)

Dessert was black mission figs poached (briefly) in a mixture of water, port and campari with a pinch of cayenne and black pepper (sauce recipe from JPT). I thickened this with cornstarch and we ate it over vanilla ice cream. I think the sauce could do with a bit more sweet, but this was still a very interesting dessert.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Stuffed Acorn Squash

This is a random idea that had been kicking around in my head for a while; last night we put it to the test.

1 acorn squash, halved and de-seeded
1/2 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 onion, fine dice
1/2 cup diced red cabbage
1/2 cup diced shitake mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
10 raw almonds, slivered
salt and black pepper
olive oil

Cook the brown rice in the chicken stock with a pinch of salt.
Put the squash halves split-side up in a baking dish, season them with salt and pepper and drizzle on some olive oil. Bake at 400 until they start to get soft, 30-40 minutes.
Get a Tbs of olive oil hot in a pan and add the onion. Cook for a couple minutes, until the onion starts to soften. Add the cabbage and cook for another few minutes, until it starts to soften. Add the shitakes and cook until they give up their moisture and start to brown, another couple minutes. Add the wine and let it reduce by about half. Add the cooked rice and mix well. Cook for another couple of minutes until the liquid is gone. Adjust seasonings.
Stuff the squash halves with the pilaf and top with almond slivers.
Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, until the top is crunchy and the almonds start to take on some color.

These were really nice. I have to pat myself on the back a little bit for the balance of the dish: with the acidity of the wine playing off against the sweetness of the squash and the almonds complementing the nuttiness of the rice.

Garlicky Reduced Tomato Sauce

The idea for this sauce came from Marcella Hazan's "Tomato Sauce with Butter" recipe, though I gave up the wonderful clarity and simplicity of that recipe. I'm not sure I'd want to use this on pasta, though it might work on something really rustic (like "rags").

1 16oz jar tomatoes
1/2-1 cup red wine
8 cloves of garlic, very coarsely chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook at a gentle boil until the tomatoes have broken down and the volume is reduced by half or more, 45 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally (more frequently towards the end) to prevent it from burning to the bottom of the pan.
Homogenize with a stick blender; this will also emulsify the sauce and beat in some air, so the color will lighten up a lot.
Adjust seasonings and serve.

Saturday Overview

Yesterday was a pretty busy kitchen day, so I'll do an overview post and then follow with a couple recipes.

Things I made that weren't dinner:

  1. a loaf of bread: I used the hearth bread recipe this time to add some variety. We haven't tried any yet, but it looks awfully good
  2. a pot of beef stock: this still needs to be reduced some; I'll take care of that today
  3. a batch of "fiery pumpkin seeds" using the seeds from Andrea's Halloween pumpkin. The recipe for these is from Bittman, though I used a mixture of new mexican and pasilla chile powders
For dinner I sauteed the remaining mahi mahi fillets and served them on top of a garlic-laden reduced tomato sauce (recipe to follow). Our side dishes were creamed spinach (from Bittman) and stuffed acorn squash (recipe to follow). This was another wonderful meal.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Thursday night: Fish Tacos

To go with these we had oven-browned potatoes, pintos, and the leftover red cabbage with cilantro-lime vinaigrette from Wednesday night.

1/2 lb mahi mahi fillet, cut into 1/2" thick planks
flour (about 1/8 cup)
salt, cayenne, paprika, black pepper
oil for frying
shredded red cabbage, soaked in brine for a couple of hours then wrung out
1 canned chipotle, minced
2 Tbs sour cream
1 Tbs heavy cream
cilantro leaves
flour tortillas
lemon wedges

Start by making a sauce from the chipotle, sour cream, and cream. You want to add enough cream so that it's pourable. Add salt to taste.
Put the flour on a plate and season it well with the salt, cayenne, paprika, and pepper.
Heat about 1/4" of oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, dredge the fish pieces through the flour, shake off any excess, and add to the pan.
Cook the fish for 2-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown, then drain on paper towels.
Assemble a taco by placing a couple pieces of fish in a tortilla, squirting on a bit of lemon, topping it with cabbage and cilantro, and then drizzling on some sauce.

These were damn good. It's probably worth trying a real batter for this at some point, I can imagine the results would also be quite nice.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wednesday Leftovers

To go with the leftover curried squash soup, I made a salad of shredded red cabbage soaked in brine for a while, and julienned radish [both are CSA]. The dressing was a vinaigrette/mayonaise made with cilantro, garlic, lime juice, egg yolk, canola oil.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tuesday Night: Butternut Squash Soup

We had a butternut squash (missing seeds, weird!) from last week's CSA box and some good chicken stock in the fridge, so butternut squash soup was bound to happen; last night it did. I used the Curried Squash Soup recipe from FStoS, but I used masaman curry paste instead of yellow curry paste (that's what we had in the fridge) and didn't add the lime until the soup went in the bowl.

Whoever came up with the "fusion" idea of combining butter with southeast asian stuff should be given the Nobel food prize.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sunday Night Skewers

Last night we had wine and apps with some friends. To go with the Zinfandel they were serving, we made lamb kebabs from License to Grill. The lamb was marinaded in parsley, mint, garlic, and lemon zest then grilled on skewers with red pepper, onion, and fresh figs. To play contrast, there's a quince-ginger chutney on the side. mmm, grilled lamb and figs with chutney.

Saturday Catchup

For lunch on Saturday I made onion sandwiches from JPT and a improv'ed chicken soup with tomatoes and a bit of chorizo. After eating a raw-onion sandwich, the soup was a nice change. :-)

Later in the day I managed to cut the crap out myself while dicing an onion and not paying sufficient attention to what I was doing. Andrea ended up suffering more from this than I did, because she then had to take over the prep work for dinner while I moved into a supervisory role. heh

For dinner we went "bistro" and had three dishes from FStoS: roast tomatoes stuffed with greens (with verbena ricotta cheese instead of goat cheese), mashed potatoes with Dijon mustard and vermouth topped with crispy shallots, and pan-fried steaks ("tenderized round steaks" from our cow) with red-wine and garlic sauce. That was good food.

Dessert was absolutely not required.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wednesday Night: Sauteed Vegetables, Tomato-Pasta Gratin

We got a new CSA box, so last night we needed to finish out the stuff left from previous boxes and get a start on this one. Sauteed vegetables is always a good way to use up a ton of stuff quickly, so that was one of last night's dishes. I kept trying to figure out a way to get cheese involved in the meal (mashed potatoes with cheese? polenta with cheese?) and finally realized that what I wanted was macaroni and cheese.

The mix for the sauteed vegetables was: bacon, carrots [CSA], onions, eggplant [CSA], potato [CSA], dandelion greens. For serving, I topped it with a mixture of minced parsley [CSA], minced garlic, and grated lemon peel to liven things up a bit.

To make the pasta gratin, I started with a sauce veloute (butter, flour, chicken stock) and added white wine (what do you call a sauce veloute with wine?), cayenne, and grated Emmenthaler and Romano cheeses. I poured this over some mostly-cooked farfalle mixed with diced San Marzano tomatoes [CSA] in a grated dish. After topping with a bread crumb/minced garlic/olive oil mixture, I baked it at 400 until brown and crunchy.

To go with this goodness we had a bit of leftover chicken and another apple galette, made with the second half of Sunday night's dough, for dessert.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tuesday Night: Leftover Chicken, Braised Red Cabbage, Pea Pod Soup

We're going to be eating leftover roast chicken all week. :-)

Last night I sauteed some chunks of chicken in a bit of olive oil and served them with the leftover pan sauce. To go with that I made sweet and sour braised cabbage using the half head of red cabbage leftover from Saturday. The star was the pea pod soup, made from a recipe in JPT using the pods from Sunday's peas and enriched with a bit of cream.

The sharp, assertive cabbage complemented the subtle, creamy soup really nicely. This was a pleasant surprise because I was a little worried that the cabbage would overwhelm the soup.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sunday Dessert: Apple galette

We (Andrea did most of the work) followed the recipe for a country apple tart in JPT, but used braeburn apples instead of golden delicious. We ate the tart with a dollop of sour cream thinned with heavy cream and were very, very happy. This isn't a particularly sweet or rich dessert, so it was just perfect for yesterday.

Sunday: Tomatoes stuffed with lemon-verbena cheese and tapenade

The last time we made something like this was back when I started this blog. The idea was to reproduce a dish that Andrea had eaten when we were in Provence, and it worked pretty well. We didn't manage to flavor the cheese (brousse) with lemon verbena like it was in Arles, but the app was still damn tasty.

When we saw some lemon verbena at a stand at the Ferry Building farmers' market up in the city on Saturday I knew it was time to make this again.

To start with, I made a half batch of ricotta cheese using a very useful recipe I found back in May. While the milk was heating (in a double boiler this time!), I added about half a cup of loosely packed lemon verbena leaves. I left the herbs in until the milk was close to done, then skimmed them out with a slotted spoon. This lent the milk a great verbena flavor. After making the cheese and draining it very well (I wanted something drier than typical ricotta), I got a cheese with a mild lemon verbena flavor. Clearly a lot of the flavor went with the whey, so it wouldn't have hurt to add more verbena and/or to steep it longer. Still, the cheese is really nice as it stands; and no burnt flavor this time. Double boiler++.

Yesterday was too busy to make tomato confit, so I hollowed out the tomatoes and filled them with a bit of tapenade (6 olives nicoise, one clove minced garlic, 1/2 minced anchovie, balsamico) and cheese, baked them at 425 for about 20 minutes, and let them cool down almost to room temp. I topped each one with another blob of tapenade, a basil leaf, and the top of the tomato and served them on a tomato jus (the tomato guts, pureed and strained, with a drop or two of Tabasco and some salt).

These were beautiful and very tasty.

Sunday Cooking Fest

Yesterday was Vietnamese, today was more French/Mediterranean. We started with roasted tomatoes filled with tapenade and lemon-verbena ricotta cheese (recipe to follow) as an app, then for dinner had roasted chicken, fresh peas with pearl onions and lettuce, and roasted potatoes. We'll be having an apple galette for dessert if we are ever hungry again... the galette is sitting in the kitchen waiting to be eaten.

This was a great meal. Some notes:

  1. For the chicken I made a paste of garlic, parsley, cumin, sweet paprika, pimenton, salt and black pepper. I rubbed this in the cavity and under the breast skin. I stuffed the chicken with onions and put more onion in the pan. To make a sauce I deglazed the pan with white wine, strained the sauce into a clean saucepan and thickened with potato starch. The pan drippings didn't need to be defatted as I had already removed a lot of the larger fat deposits for the potatoes.
  2. We roasted the potatoes in the body fat from the chicken, which I removed from the bird before cooking and rendered down. Andrea seasoned the diced potatoes (1/2" dice) with salt, pepper, sweet paprika, and cumin.
  3. The pea recipe is from JPT, and it's great.

Sunday Bread

This morning I made a loaf of the flaxseed bread so that we have good sandwich possibilities this week.

Saturday Vietnamese

I started this menu with the desire to make "Grilled Skirt Steak with Vietnamese 'Chimichurri'" from a Bittman column a few weeks ago. Then, since I was starting with Vietnamese, I figured I might as well stay there, so I accompanied the skirt steak with two Bittman adaptations of dishes from Charles Phan: "Jicama Salad with Grapefruit" and "Bok Choy with Shitakes". We also made up a batch of sticky rice to soak up the various sauces.

We didn't end up finding any grapefruit at the market, so I substituted valencia oranges in the salad recipe without making things taste bad. :-)

I hardly need to say this, but: mmmm, Vietnamese food.

Saturday breakfast: waffles

Yesterday's breakfast (and today's!) was yeasted waffles. We topped them with plum jam and the last of the leftover cherries from last weekend.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Plum jam experiment

We had some nice prune plums that were starting to get too soft, so last night I tried a jam experiment (really it was a Pfluemli experiment, but there's little chance that would work). I put the pitted plums in a pan with a bit of water, some sugar, a couple cloves, a couple lightly crushed allspice berries, and a bit of cinnamon.

I simmered this covered for about an hour, until the plums were pretty broken down. Then I ran it through the food mill (fine mesh), put it back on the stove, and added some liquid pectin and a bit of lemon juice.

After getting it back to a simmer. I removed it from the heat, transferred to a yogurt container, let it cool to room temp, and then tossed it in the fridge.

This morning it's not as thick as I'd like -- more time cooking with the lid off is probably wise -- but the jam does have a nice flavor.

This is no Pfluemli, but it'll work well on cereal.

Thursday Leftovers

Our main course for last night was split peas and ham from deep in the freezer. To accompany this, I roasted some eggplants [CSA] with garlic and shallots and we had a green salad. I drizzled balsamico over the eggplant on serving to give it a bit of acidity.

We had some pickled turnips on the side - these are now done and they taste great. The liquid also proves to be a good base for salad dressing.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tuesday Pickles

We got turnips in last week's CSA box, and we're out of pickles, so I opted to make turnip pickles last night. I am pickling them in gin and citrus (following a Quick Pickles) recipe, using mainly small (< 2 inch) turnips.

Now there's that damn waiting for the pickles to finish. Damn waiting.

Tuesday Night Indian

It had been a while since I had made Indian food and were both kind of craving something different after all the Sauerbraten of the past few days, so last night I made a couple recipes out of Dakshin: Lemon Rasam and Eggplant Rasavangy (using CSA eggplant). This was the first rasam I had done from that cookbook and we were both very happy with it. It's nice to have something "thin" to follow a richer curry (though due to some logistical errors on my part, we actually had the rasam first). The rasavangy was a repeat, an awfully good repeat.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Monday: Leftover Sauerbraten, roasted cauliflower, flash-fried greens

To go with some leftover sauerbraten, we roasted up a head of CSA cauliflower, made a green salad, and flash-fried some turnip greens with bacon and cider vinegar.

mmm, greens with bacon and vinegar. :-)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Saturday Night: Oktoberfest Dinner

Well Oktoberfest may have already happened, but we used it as the theme for a dinner party last night anyway. The menu was:

  1. Starters: Weisswurst (from Dittmers) with sweet mustard; Reibekuchen with apple sauce
  2. Mains: Sauerbraten, Kartoffelknoedel, green beans, green salad with sour-cream dressing (from a Bittman column a long time ago).
  3. Dessert: Reisfladen with sour cherry sauce and sour cream.
  1. I somehow managed to burst the wurst. I guess I should have poked them with a fork a few times before boiling them. Ah well, they still tasted good, though I really prefer a good grilled Thueringer.
  2. The Reibekuchen recipe is from my Niederrhein cookbook. We once again used the pre-cook, hold in a 250 degree oven, refresh in hot pan trick and that worked great. The food-processed apple sauce was also more pleasing.
  3. The Sauerbraten recipe is from How to Cook Meat, but I used an eye of round roast and subbed a mixture of red wine and cider vinegar for the balsamico they call for. I also used more tomatoes (two pint cans), allowed the roast to cool in the sauce for a bit before skimming, and homogenized the sauce with the stick blender after skimming.
  4. For the Knoedel I started from the potato dumpling recipe in How to Cook Meat, but I replaced some of the flour with bread crumbs and used way less flour than the recipe called for anyway. I prefer the lighter, more tender Knoedel you get with less flour. To make dinner go more smoothly, I par-boiled the dumplings in batches for 7-8 minutes early in the day and then tossed them back in the stock (chicken + beef + water) in group for 5 or 6 minutes just before serving. I garnished the bowl with a healthy bit of chives.
  5. The Reisfladen were made on Thursday.
  6. To make the topping for the Reisfladen, I reduced the syrup from two jars of sour cherries, with a bit of sugar (a few Tbs). To thicken the sauce I used a couple Tbs of corn starch. As a final "enrichment" I also added a bit of brandy.
I think overall the meal was a great success. It's definite that our kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it, and that's always a good sign. :-)