Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sunday Night Korean

Sunday night we had kalbi jim (Korean braised short ribs, using ribs from our cow) and kimchi, both from recipes in BittmanWorld. I didn't plan particularly well, so I had to make a couple of substitutions when I made the marinade for the ribs on Saturday (an extra shallot for the scallions, a mixture of white wine and xiaoxing wine for the sake).

The kimchi, which we made with a mixture of napa cabbage and daikon radish, turned out great. The ribs were also very tasty, but somehow seemed "unfocused" in their flavor (to the extent that makes sense). This probably is because of the substitutions; the only thing for it is to try the recipe again and do it right. Soon! :-)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving redux

Karen and Jamshid hosted the big event and I helped cook. Stuff I made:

  1. Parkerhouse rolls: didn't turn out as well as those from last year.
  2. Baked sweet potatoes: baked in the skin, then peeled and reheated with butter at the last minute. This is a great way to get excellently concentrated flavor.
  3. Mushroom stuffing: I used one "sweet" batard and one sour batard for this. The sour component was a bit too potent and could be dropped or further diluted, but otherwise I thought this turned out well. There were complaints about there being either too many or too strongly flavored mushrooms. I used cremini instead of button mushrooms, which may be partially responsible? Worth keeping in mind for the future.
  4. Squash-leek soup with delicata squash. Similar to the one I made when Christina was visiting.
  5. Roasted green beans: salt the beans and cook them in a single layer at 425 for 10 minutes, flip them and roast another 10 minutes. They are shriveled and delicious and can bemicrowaved at the last minute to reheat.
  6. Gravy
The food overall was just right. :-)

Friday: Devilled porkchops; Bratkartoffeln; lima beans

I had a porkchop craving yesterday, so I made this "devilled porkchops" recipe from BittmanWorld. The only realy variation I did was to let the chops sit for a while after covering them with the mustard. We ate them on a bed of frisee (we got a nice head of frisee at last week's farmers markte), topped with a pan sauce.

For the potatoes, I diced them large (1" dice, or thereabouts), put them in cold water and brought it to a gently boil over medium heat. The idea was to end up with potatoes that were barely cooked (even a bit raw in the middle) and not all beat up so that they held together in the pan frying. This worked. :-)

We had lima beans as a side because I wanted to show Andrea what lima beans are.

This was good food.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Wednesday: Pasta with vegetable sauce

We needed to use up some remaining CSA vegetables, so last night I improv'ed a pasta sauce:

eggplant, 1 cm dice, about 2 cups (salted, rinsed, and drained if necessary)
orange peppers, small dice, about 1 cup
1/2 large red onion, small dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 anchovy
olive oil
chicken stock
salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper
1 Tbs butter
finely chopped parsley to top

Heat a couple Tbs olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add the anchovy. Cook, stirring, until the anchovy breaks down. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the onion and half the pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for another couple minutes until things start to soften. Add the eggplant and a pinch of red pepper and cook for another couple minutes. Add a bit of stock (1/4 cup or so), cover and let simmer until the eggplant is soft. Add more stock if necessary to keep it from getting dry. Add the remaining pepper and cook for another couple minutes. Stir in the butter and adjust seasonings.
If needed, thin with some pasta water before serving. Top with the parsley.

This sauce, served atop penne, made a nice dinner with a green salad on the side.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Black-eyed peas and collard greens

I originally was going to make the black-eyed peas and have the collards on the side, but I decided to just go for the whole beans-and-greens thing. That was a good idea:

1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1/2 red onion, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-4 oz smoked ham, cubed (I used the butts from a Niman Ranch "black forest ham", and that was good...)
1 bunch collard greens chopped (This was whatever size bunch we got from our CSA box, I think it was probably 1/2 pound)
neutral oil
extra chicken stock
salt and pepper

Pick through and rinse the black-eyed peas, then transfer them to a pot with a lid. Add water to cover by about 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil covered, then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 4-6 hours.
Add the onion, garlic, and ham and bring to a gentle boil, covered. Add more water (or stock) if needed.
When the beans start to get tender, flash fry the greens in the oil and then add to the beans along with however much stock you need to make sure everything is covered.
Continue to simmer until the beans and greens are tender (about 20-30 minutes).
Adjust seasonings and serve.


  1. mmmm, beans and greens
  2. smoked ham hock would also work in this
  3. evidence on the plate seems to indicate that this might appreciate a hit of lemon juice. Vinegar would be more traditional, but lemon juice seems to go as well.

Tuesday Randomness

Last night we had a very colorful, very random mix of primarily vegetables on our plates:

  1. the remaining roasted pumpkin from Sunday
  2. brussels sprouts sauteed with garlic, lemon, and bread crumbs (from Bittman)
  3. black-eyed peas with collard greens[CSA] and ham (next post)
Though there's some argument for the brussels sprouts and the beans and greens to go next to each other (particularly that lemon), these didn't really go together. But they were all individually good, so there ya go.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sunday: Apple Butter

This was an idea Andrea and I had for a food gift for Christmas. I hadn't done apple butter before, so this was an adventure/learning experience. For proportions and basic technique I used the recipe in The Joy of Cooking.

The first time I tested this (much smaller quantity), I used a sweet apple and was not real pleased with how the apple butter turned out (it also didn't help that I added the optional lemon zest and had the inspiration of adding a bit of molasses: those two overpowered everything else and you couldn't taste apple at all). This time we picked out a mixture of granny smith and mutsu apples; I think the tartness of the apples really improves the apple butter.

Start with a goodly quantity of apples (about 5 pounds). Wash them, quarter them, and remove the cores and stems. Then throw them in a large pot with enough water to cover the bottom by about 1/4 inch, cover the pot, and let it simmer (low heat) until the apples get soft - an hour or more. Run the apples through a food mill (fine mesh) into a second, ovensafe, pot. Measure the pulp.
Add the spices: for about 5 cups of pulp, I added 2 cups of sugar, 4 cinnamon sticks, 6 cloves, and 6 allspice berries (crushed with the side of a knife).
Put the pot, uncovered, in a 275 degree oven for a good, long time, maybe 4 hours, maybe longer. Take it out every once in a while and give it a stir. (Theoretically, you can do this step in a crockpot too, but we don't have a crockpot.)
The apple butter is done when it seems appropriately thick and the color has changed to a nice caramel brown.
We then canned the apple butter in 8 oz jars (20 minutes in the canner).
We ended up with 6 jars, which isn't enough, so we'll be doing this again next weekend. :-)

Sunday Night Chinese

Last night we made a couple Chinese dishes from BittmanWorld: "shrimp with cabbage and black beans" and "chinese greens with oyster sauce" (though instead of greens we used broccolini from the farmers market). Both turned out nicely, though the shrimp would have benefited from a bit of cornstarch to thicken the sauce.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Saturday: Allium-Potato Soup

For dinner last night I adapted the "Garlic Soup" recipe from JPT to use up some alliums we had lying around. The primary stars in this very assertive soup are the leeks [CSA] and garlic:

4 leeks, including part of the green, sliced
8 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cloves braised garlic
1 large yellow onion, medium dice
1 pound starchy potatoes, peeled, medium dice
2 Tbs butter
4 Tbs olive oil from braising garlic
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups milk
2 cups water
Salt and white pepper
heavy cream, optional

Add the butter and oil to a soup pot over medium-high heat until the butter foams. Add the leeks, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and starts to take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add the potato and cook, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes.
Add the stock, milk, water, and some white pepper (maybe 1/2 tsp) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer until the potato pieces are cooked, 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and homogenize thoroughly.
Return the (low) heat, taste for seasonings, and add a bit of heavy cream if the soup tastes too thin.
Serve with grind of black pepper and, optionally, some chives (we didn't have chives last night or I would have done this).

To accompany the soup, we had also had some good bread and a "Deconstructed Salad":
- Green leaf lettuce [CSA], ripped into bite-size pieces, dressed with salt, good olive oil, balsamico
- Threaded watermelon radish [CSA], lightly salted
- Threaded cucumber, lightly salted
- Roasted pumpkin chunks [CSA], dressed with salt, black pepper, good olive oil, fresh parsley [CSA], and a small amount of rice vinegar.
(Threaded = sliced using either a peeler or the ceramic slicer, then cut cross-wise into threads)
Each of the veggies was in a distinct pile on the plate, which made a nice arrangement.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thursday night: Escarole and white bean soup

We had escarole from the CSA box, and this Bittman column from back in October was still in the back of my head, so last night we had soup:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 strips bacon, cut into small strips (lardons)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 dried cayenne peppers, sliced
1 good-sized head of escarole, cut into chunks
1 20 oz jar of white (cannellini) beans, drained
3 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
good olive oil for drizzling
Big croutons and parmesan cheese for serving.

Brown the bacon pieces in a pot over medium heat in the olive oil, then remove them from the pot. Add half of the garlic and all of the cayenne and saute for a minute or so. Add the escarole and a pinch of salt and saute for another minute or so, until it's coated with oil. Add the stock and beans, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the escarole is tender. Add back the bacon and the reserved garlic, let cook another minute or so.
Serve drizzled with the oil and topped with croutons and parmesan.

This was just excellent. Something (escarole and/or beans) leached a bunch of starch into the stock, making it nice and thick (mmm, unctuous), and the mild bitterness of the escarole plays off really well against the creaminess of the white beans. To complete dinner we had a green salad from the CSA box.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Microreview: Mike's Cafe in Menlo Park

This is the place that took over the old "Late for the Train" spot a while ago.

I went to Mike's for lunch today and was not even remotely impressed. They're borderline white tablecloth in terms of atmosphere, but the service was sloooooow and the food was both overpriced and dull.

I had fish and chips ($10.95) which was a few pieces of nicely breaded red snapper piled on some tired romaine lettuce and about 8 steak fries. The fish had a nice crust, but to call it flavorless is to give it far too much credit; this stuff seemed to destroy the flavor of the things around it on the plate. The fries were warm (not hot) and mushy inside.

Maybe they were having a bad day, but I won't find out, because I won't be going back.

I guess I miss Late for the Train.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tuesday's Leftovers

In order to finish off the last of the sherry-braised beef from Sunday, last night I threw it into a pot with a jar of tomatoes, let it simmer for a bit, then served it over spaghetti with lemon zest, minced parsley, and a bit of grated manchego. It was spicy, Spanish-influenced, spag bol! We somehow didn't have much in the house in the way of vegetables, so to accompany that we had some glazed baby carrots.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sherry-braised beef

This idea came about because I really wanted to make beef rendang yesterday but that wouldn't fit into the Spanish theme of the rest of the food. So I decided to improvise something like rendang but with Spanish flavors. This is what I came up with.

2 lb beef chuck roast, cut into 1-2 inch cubes/rectangles
2 heaping tsp smoked paprika
2 heaping tsp sweet paprika
2 heaping tsp ground cumin
1 cup dry sherry
salt and black pepper
olive oil

Combine the beef with the spices, 3/4 cup of sherry, and a healthy hit of salt and pepper. Let stand for a couple hours.
Heat some olive oil in a heavy skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat.
Add the beef chunks, letting excess marinade drip back into the bowl, and brown well. Do this in stages so that the pan doesn't get too crowded. Watch the heat level so the spices don't burn.
When the beef pieces are nicely browned, transfer them to a nonstick pan with a lid that will hold them in a single layer.
Deglaze the skillet with the remaining 1/4 cup of sherry, then pour this over the beef chunks in the other pan. Pour the marinade left in the bowl over the beef.
Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, until the liquid is absorbed and the beef is fork tender. If the pan is dry before the beef is done, add a bit of stock.

This stuff was *good*. Using meat from our cow probably helped, but I'm sure "normal" beef probably would also have been excellent.

Roasted pepper timbale with garlic vinaigrette

This was an improvisation that came about because we had loads of extra peppers from the farmers market and we were roasting pimentos anyway. I used several different varieties of smaller peppers (red, green, yellow, orange, none of them bell peppers), roasted them in the broiler, and then peeled them by hand (not using water). This doesn't taste any better than it would if you just dressed the peppers with the vinaigrette, but it sure does look nice. :-)

To make the timbale:
3/4 cup roasted pepper strips
salt, pepper
parsley leaves

Mix the pepper strips with some salt, pepper, and a squirt of lemon.
Oil the inside of a 6 oz ramekin, line it with plastic wrap. and oil the inside of the wrap with good olive oil.
Arrange some parsley leaves nicely on the bottom of the lined ramekin.
Pack in the pepper strips and fold the plastic wrap over the top.
Put the ramekin in the fridge with a weight on top of it for an hour or so.
Gently demold the timbale onto a plate, remove the plastic wrap, surround it with vinaigrette, serve.

Garlic vinaigrette (quantities here are very approximate):

1 Tbs lemon juice
2-3 Tbs braising oil from making braised garlic
1 anchovy fillet
2 Tbs water
1 tsp balsamico
1 Tbs parsley leaves
salt and pepper

Combine the lemon juice, anchovy, parsley, and oil in a minichop with some pepper. Blend well to form an emulsion. Add the water. Blend well. Add the balsamico and blend well. Adjust seasonings.
This emulsion seemed pretty stable last night.

Sunday Tapas Madness

Yesterday friends came over and I made a series of "small plate" things:

  1. Sauteed almonds (BittmanWorld)
  2. Roasted pimentos rolled around iberico cheese
  3. Almond meatballs (BittmanWorld, but I used ground turkey and rolled the meatballs in bread crumbs instead of flour)
  4. Roasted pepper timbales with garlic vinaigrette (see subsequent post)
  5. Mushrooms with Sherry (BittmanWorld)
  6. Garlic shrimp ("My favorite shrimp" from Bittman)
  7. White beans with chorizo and braised garlic
  8. Yellow rice (BittmanWorld)
  9. Oranges with pickled onions (quick pickled with salt, lime, and fresh OJ)
  10. Sherry-braised beef (see subsequent post)
Jon and Cati also brought a big green salad with celery root and an orange dressing.

Doing tapas is a fantabulous way to get to make loads of things at once. Hoo boy did we eat well. :-)

Saturday's Home fries

I did home fries for breakfast on Saturday and there a couple things I should take note of:

  1. I wrung out the shredded potatoes using a towel (trick from making Reibekuchen), which really helps keep the moisture down.
  2. I didn't use any flour or egg or other binder, just shredded potatoes, onions, and salt and pepper. Proportions: two good sized baking potatoes to one small yellow onion.
Aside from the usual difficulties that accompany shallow frying instead of deep frying, these turned out really well.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thursday night: Southeast Asian Chicken Saute

This was the second way of the "Southeast Asian chicken two ways" from BittmanWorld. I used bone-in chicken thighs and added some minced lemongrass to the spice mixture.
I also flash fried some collard greens [CSA] with spring onions and a bit of rice vinegar.

We accompanied these two delights with sticky rice and a green salad. I do love that caramel/fish sauce component of Vietnamese food, oh yes I do.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wednesday Night: Steak with Mushrooms, Sauteed Vegetables

We've been building up to needing to make a batch of sauteed vegetables for a while -- to help empty some of the CSA stuff out of the fridge. Last night was the night.
Approximate quantities: 4 strips bacon, 1 leek, 1 delicata squash, 4 "french" carrots, 1 1/2 turnips (one yellow, 1/2 red-top; this ends up being about 2 cups diced turnip), 2 cups diced eggplant, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig marjoram (dried), 2 Tbs chopped frozen basil.
I served the vegetables drizzled with good olive oil and with a spoon of parsley/garlic (overly strong parsley/garlic... whoa).

To go with the vegetables, I sauteed the last of the chateaubriand (used in the pho). I salted and peppered the steak liberally, sauteed it in about a Tbs of butter until all sides were nicely browned, then transferred to the 300 degree toaster oven. To make a sauce I deglazed with a chopped shallot and about 1/2 cup of red wine, reduced the wine heavily, added about a cup of chopped oyster mushrooms, cooked until they were soft, added a bit more wine and another dab of butter.

We also had a green salad. Everything was most excellent, though the vegetables could have used a bit of potato to tame those turnips.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tuesday Night: Cookies

I couldn't just do nothing last night, so I made a batch of cookies. :-)

I made a half batch of "The World's Best Cookies" from San Francisco a la Carte (get the recipe using Amazon's amazing "Search Inside the Book" feature).

Though they have a goofy name, these are really nice cookies: they keep a long time, have a good variety of flavors, and aren't overly sweet. Needless to say, I don't do the "sprinkle the finished cookies with sugar" thing.

leftover leftovers!

The downside of all that cooking on the weekend is that we end up with so many leftovers that there's no cooking during the week.

Damn tasty leftovers though.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sunday's Roast

Last night I made two things from BittmanWorld -- pork stuffed with prunes and apricots, and braised red cabbage [CSA] with apples [CSA]-- as well as a batch of mashed potatoes with turnips.

For the two Bittman things I pretty much followed the recipes in the book, aside from using a "ribeye" roast of pork. For the potatoes I used a 2:1 ratio of yukon gold potatoes [CSA] to turnip; I cooked the turnips by dicing and roasting them to prevent them from getting soggy.

We were both very happy with the food.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Saturday Night: Pho

When I flipped through BittmanWorld the first time and saw a pho recipe, there wasn't much doubt that I'd have to give it a try. Since it's definitely a weekend prep, and Andrea was very enthusiastic, we made this yesterday.

I pretty much followed the recipe, though I used "beef knuckles" from Draegers (some piece of leg bone with a substantial chunk of meat still attached) instead of plain bones and chateaubriand instead of sirloin.

This recipe is really simple, it's just time consuming and is certainly a form of torture as the whole house fills with the smell of star anise, cloves, and ginger. But the results are certainly worth it: Pho is just soooo good.


  1. The beef knuckles are meaty enough that I would have been fine leaving the chuck out of the recipe entirely. They have a great flavor and enough connective tissue that they'd probably make a really good roast or braise on their own... Something to remember now that we're in roasting and braising season. :-)
  2. Even though we pre-heated the bowls (we pretty much always warm plates and bowls these days, it's great), and used boiling broth, there was enough cold stuff in the bowls that the soup wasn't as hot as we liked. So we tossed the finished bowls in the microwave for a minute after assembling them. It would be better to do this before adding the thinly sliced beef and herbs.
  3. I resisted the temptation to add lemongrass to the broth, because I thought it might overpower the other ingredients. That was probably the right decision, because the broth is fairly subtle (at least by my standards), but I'd still like to try adding some lemongrass at some point.

New Cookbook

Last week I found out about the publication of Mark Bittman's new Best Recipes in the World. It's a stupid name -- it reminds me too much of the America's Test Kitchen titles -- but how could I possible resist a new Bittman book? Particularly one with loads of recipes from places other than France, Italy, and the US? The answer to that is pretty easy: I couldn't.

After paging through most of the book, I'm very happy with it.

I'm sure to be using this book frequently, so it's getting a new abbreviation: BittmanWorld. Now I just have to go through my box of index cards and throw out all those Minimalist recipes that are in there. :-)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Note to my future self about beurre blanc

It seems that beurre blanc, or whatever it is that I make when I try to make beurre blanc, isn't half so fragile as I believed.

I made a batch on Sunday night and it's been sitting, covered, at room temp since then. When we've wanted to use it, we just throw it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and then whisk it a bit. The sauce comes right back together and tastes fine. I'm sure that I would notice some difference if I were a super taster, but I'm not, so I don't.

This is just fabulous for Andrea and I: we both like beurre blanc a lot, but it's a bit too much of a hassle to make for a single dish. Plus making only two servings is pretty much impossible. So being able to make a half recipe from Techniques and eat it over the course of a couple meals is most excellent.

Thursday night steaks

I fried up a couple of "tenderized round steaks" from our cow last night for dinner. To go along with them I made a quick sauce from: chopped parsley [CSA], chopped garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, a teeny bit of balsamico, toasted cumin seeds, sweet paprika, salt, and pepper.

As sides we had some roasted golden beet (from Wednesday), steamed broccoli [CSA] with beurre blanc (from Sunday), and a green salad[CSA].

For dessert we made an apple galette using the leftover (frozen) crust from Saturday's quiche.


  1. Beurre blanc isn't quite as perfect a match fro broccoli as beurre noisette, but it was still quite good.
  2. The beets -- dressed with white balsamico, good olive oil, salt, and pepper -- continue to be enjoyable. Yay
  3. The steaks were very flavorful, but not so tender. No big surprise there and I'd much rather have it that way than the other way around!
  4. Unsurprisingly given how well the crust on the quiche turned out, the galette was really, really good. This is a great use of that leftover blob of crust that I always end up with I make quiche.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wednesday Night: Winter Vegetable Soup

Last night we made some progress on using up stuff from two CSA boxes (last week and this week). I improvised a soup from leeks, delicata squash, carrots, onions, garlic, and chicken stock. I also roasted some golden beets and we had a green salad with some julienned watermelon radish.

The soup was fabulous. Surprisingly, the beets didn't taste too much like dirt, so Andrea and I both liked them; I guess maybe we only really dislike red beets.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tuesday Night Curry

Last night I did a Thai red curry with shrimp, eggplant, and fresh shitake mushrooms. We were going to make a red cabbage salad, but we forgot. doh! Luckily there was plenty of delicious curry.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Monday Night: Farmers Market Treats

At Sunday's farmers market we picked up some nice looking artichokes and chantarelles. That pretty much set last night's menu: Steamed Artichokes with Beurre Blanc and Sauteed Chantarelles on Polenta.

I kept the chantarelle prep simple: I just sauteed the sliced mushrooms in olive oil with a bit of fresh thyme, some salt, and a small splash of balsamico. I drizzled the final dish with some black truffle oil and a sprinkle of chopped parsley before serving.

We also had a salad with mixed greens from our CSA box and some arugula from the farmers market.

For dessert I made a raspberry gratin (from JPFF).