Friday, March 24, 2006

Thursday's Veggie Fest

The high-speed veggie consumption continued last night.

We started with steamed artichokes [CSA]. These were small, so I trimmed them, cut them in half, rubbed them with lemon, then steamed them. We ate them dressed with good olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper.

The main course was white beans with spanish chorizo, dandelion greens [CSA], and loads of smoked paprika and garlic.

As a side I did another batch of carrots [CSA] cooked in cream, but this time I added some julienned ginger to the mix. The ginger went very nicely indeed, thank you very much.

I'm tired of the green goddess dressing, so for the salad I made some yogurt-garlic-tahini dressing.

It was another night of happy, happy food. :-)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wednesday: Return of the veggies

Yesterday we got our first CSA box of the season. Since we're going to be out of town next week, there's some time pressure on finishing off the veggies, so the menus are going to be veggie-heavy for the next couple days.

Last night I made a batch of polenta with asiago fresco cheese to serve as center of the meal. To go around the polenta I did:

  1. King trumpet mushrooms [CSA] browned in butter, drizzled with balsamico
  2. Dino kale and green garlic [both CSA], flash-fried and then steamed with some chicken stock, served with a dash of tabasco
  3. Chantenay carrots, braised in cream (Cut the carrots into 2 inch long wedges; add some heavy cream, salt, and white pepper; cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes; remove the lid and raise the heat to reduce the cream to a nice sauce consistency)
In addition to being wonderfully colorful on the plate, this was a bunch of good food.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tuesday: Leftovers + Asparagus and Yogurt-Garlic Sauce

To accompany the last of the chicken and two vinegars leftovers, I sauteed some asparagus and served it with a quick sauce made from pasted, salted garlic and yogurt. I used "Mediterranean cheese style yogurt", which we recently noticed at Trader Joes. This stuff is close to quark, and we really like it.

Monday Leftovers

To go along with leftover chicken and two vinegars, I tried a slight variation on the sauteed asparagus prep that I've been doing. Instead of sauteeing with olive oil over medium-high heat in an open pan, I did the saute with butter over medium heat and covered the pan. This took longer, but it gave the asparagus a nice "stewed in butter" character that was mighty good. Like that's not redundant.

We also had the requisite green salad, with some spanish black radish and avocado (both from the farmers' market) thrown in.

More Chocolate Tasting

We found a couple of new bars at Trader Joes on Sunday, both are from Chocovic SA and purport to be "Unique Origin Varietal Chocolates" with minimum 71% cocoa. One bar, "Ocumare", is from Venezuelan cocoa; the other, "Guaranda", is from Ecuadorian cocoa.

Andrea and I agreed on preference: we liked Ocumare better than Guaranda, though both are good. Ocumare is creamier/richer and spicier. Guaranda is a bit "sharper" (to use a random word). Both are well balanced and very smooth (like the Valrhona). We liked the smoothness.

We haven't tasted these beside the Caro yet, that's for tonight. :-)

Things what I forgot: Potato-Leek Soup

One of the other things I made on Sunday was a batch of potato leek soup with some country ham.
This turned out well (it's hard to screw up), but it's quite green because when I made the stock I had loads of vegetable bits to toss in. It's almost like I planned the soup for St. Patrick's day. Except I didn't. And I was late. Yeah.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Green Goddess Salad Dressing

On Saturday I was inspired to make a batch of green goddess dressing. I started from a recipe at epicurious, but then I added extra parsley, a bunch of extra tarragon, and some water to thin things out a bit.

We're going to be eating this stuff for a while, so it's a good thing that it tastes good. :-)

Sunday Night: Chicken with Two Vinegars

It's been a surprisingly long time since I last made this dish.

Yesterday's variation used a whole cut-up chicken, red wine and sherry (instead of champagne) vinegars and vermouth instead white wine. I left out the chicken stock, because that's just not needed. I thickened the final sauce a bit with potato starch so that it worked better on the pasta (farfalle this time).

To accompany the chicken, I sauteed some asparagus. Our asparagus guy at the farmers' market is now starting to have some really nice thick spears, which we really prefer. Plus he even gives discounts for getting thick bunches, since most Californians seem to prefer thin asparagus. I won't say anything bad about them for this, but I'm tempted to. Besides, it means we get the good stuff for cheaper. :-)

Fabulous, fabulous food.

Sunday's Bread

I made another loaf of basic hearth bread yesterday. Like last week, I didn't add my usual seed mixture and stuck to straight wheat, baked in a parchment-lined loaf pan. I used an extra 30g of whole wheat flour (90g total) in the sponge and reduced the bread flour correspondingly.

The results are just as good as last time: nice flavor and texture, and the bread is beautifully moist. Another great success. ;-)

Saturday Night: Jook, Tea Eggs, BBQ Pork

We had been talking about making jook for a couple of weeks but somehow never actually did it until Saturday. I used the basic recipe in BittmanWorld, then served it with scallions, sliced BBQ pork, and sliced tea eggs (also from BittmanWorld). Well, sliced tea egg for me - Andrea doesn't care for boiled eggs.

Those tea eggs are wild, it's like boiling eggs in swamp water; swamp water with a complex and tantalizing smell. We got some nice pictures of the eggs that I'll try to figure out how to post if time, motivation, and philosophy (do I really want to start putting up pictures?) permit.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tuesday Night: Baked pasta

I pretty much followed a Marella Hazan recipe for baked rigatoni here. I used 1 cup of bechamel (made with cream instead of milk because we were out of milk), 2 cups of leftover ragu, a pound of penne rigate, and about 1/2 cup parmesan. I deviated from the recipe a bit by topping the dish with breadcrumbs and olive oil - we like our crusty tops. :-)

It wouldn't have been bad to have more sauce in the dish, but it was just fine like this.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Preserved Lemons

This is a note to myself that I started the preserved lemons, following Paula Wolfert's recipe, today. They'll be done in 30 days.

Monday leftovers

Last night was more ragu with pasta. This time we ate it with prefab spaghetti - our self-made tagliatelle didn't want to separate when cooking. Big surprise there.

As an accompaniment I made sauteed asparagus with shallots and we had a big green salad.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sunday's Cooking

Yesterday I roasted the Chinese BBQ pork I started on Saturday. We didn't eat this in a meal, but our little test drive indicates that it's damn good. :-) I'll be cooking with some of the pork this week, the rest went in the freezer.

For dinner I made a big batch of ragu (following the Jamie Oliver recipe from the NYT a couple years ago) using the three pound london broil from our cow. This doubled recipe turned out to be too much for my poor pressure cooker, so I had to remove some of the vegetables and a bit of liquid (I simmered these in a separate covered pan) to get things less than 3/4 filled. That still was overly filled, so it took forever to get up to pressure, but in the end the sauce turned out well. In addition to last night's meal, we now have two quarts of sauce in the freezer and a further quart in the fridge for later in the week.

We ate the pasta over home-made tagliatelle. Our food processor is broken, so I couldn't use that to mix the pasta dough. For some reason I used the "break the eggs into a mound of flour" technique instead of being sensible and mixing everything in a bowl. I ought to know better than that. After much cursing, I finally ended up with some properly elastic pasta dough which rolled out nicely. Cutting the dough was no problem, but I was stupidly parsimonious with the flour, so getting the noodles separated turned out to be a massive pain in the ass.

Between the overly full pressure cooker, the stupid dough mixing, and the sticky noodles, I had one of those evenings in the kitchen. Luckily the food all turned out really well... that, in the end, is the most important thing.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Saturday's Cooking

I started yesterday (well, really Friday night) with a loaf of bread. I used my usual hearth bread recipe, but I left out the seeds (so it's back to the standard Bread Bible hearth bread recipe with a doubled amount of whole wheat flour). I also baked the loaf in a parchment-lined loaf pan instead of freeform. The result is very, very good. It's moist and has a great flavor and texture. I'm patting myself on the back.

I also started a batch of chinese barbecued pork using a pork sirloin roast and the recipe from BittmanWorld. I'll roast this today and we'll probably eat some tomorrow.

For dinner I made a pot of yellow split pea soup using the recipe in JPT, minus the chicken cracklings, plus a quart of chicken stock for half the water. We ate this enriched with pieces of sausage (farmer-style bratwurst from Dittmers), a green salad, and bread.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Thursday night fish

Yesterday I picked up a nice mahi-mahi fillet and did a recipe from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (borrowed from the library). I marinated the fish with rosemary, lemon, good olive oil, and bread crumbs, then broiled it. The results were excellent.

To accompany the fish, we had: sauteed asparagus; roasted turnip and rutabaga slices; farfalle with a sauce made from browned onions, butter, white wine, and bread crumbs; and some leftover roast cauliflower from Wednesday night.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wednesday Asparagus

This meal was a product of the "hmmm, not much in the fridge other than vegetables and eggs" game. I roasted some asparagus, scallions, and cauliflower (separately of course), then served them with beurre noisette, parmesan, and eggs (a french-style omelette for Andrea, fried eggs for me) .

Given that we were using beurre noisette, dinner was, of course, delicious.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Monday Night Asian

Last night's main course was chicken with asparagus, mushrooms, ginger, and lime from FStoS. I pretty much followed the recipe aside from adding some mirin and sugar to balance the sauce a bit. This is the first of the sauteed and roasted chicken recipes that I've made from FStoS and it turned out very well indeed.

We started with a miso soup (dark miso and yam noodles because the asian place didn't have fresh tofu yet) and accompanied the chicken with japanese rice, pickled radish, and pickled ginger.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Chocolate Tasting Notes

Inspired by some recent articles in the NYT, Andrea and I have been doing a bit of chocolate tasting lately. We're starting with "plain" dark chocolates in order to establish a good baseline and educate ourselves. I'm going to record these so that we can refer to them later.

Things we've tasted so far, enhanced by my inability to assign names to flavors:

  1. Valrhona Le Noir 56% and 71%: This is smooth, round, and subtle. Compared to the other things we tasted it's almost boring, but everything is so nicely integrated that it somehow ends up being interesting. Andrea has a clear preference for the 71% bar; I lean very slightly towards the lighter one.
  2. Scharffen Berger 72% and 80%: We did not like these at all. There's a chalkiness to the texture and flavor that was unpleasant and some "off" tasting flavor notes that were just not right.
  3. Caro dark: This isn't as smooth as the Valrhona, but it's nicely rounded and there are all kinds of wonderful spicy notes in there. It's like this is what the Scharffen Berger is trying to be.

Saturday Quickie

We went up to Russian River on Saturday for the Barrel Tasting weekend, so I didn't have the energy to do anything particularly involved on Saturday night. I still wanted to have something nice, so we picked up a reasonable looking top sirloin steak and I made steak au poivre with that. To replace the missing beef stock (we didn't have that either, of course), I reduced some beef broth and red wine by about 2/3 and used that instead. I also made some mashed potatoes and sauteed arugula rabe.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wednesday Night: Chicken under a brick

To go along with the leftover cauliflower from Tuesday, I did chicken roasted under a brick based on the technique in Bittman. I brined the bird all day (1/2 cup salt, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 lemons, 1 gallon water) and then roasted it with garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest. This is a relatively quick chicken technique and the results are very good. Particularly with the leftover yogurt-garlic sauce from the cauliflower.

I also made some asparagus sauteed with shallots. mmm, asparagus and shallots.

Behind again... Tuesday Catchup

Tuesday Night:
Stuffed dates
Baked cauliflower with garlic-yogurt sauce from a recipe in The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen (I borrowed this from the library)
Slow-baked asparagus, also from TSMK.
Brown basmati rice
green salad

The stuffed dates were inspired by our tapas lunch on Saturday. Using deglet dates I picked up at the farmer's market on Sunday, I pitted them, added a piece of spanish chorizo in the middle, wrapped them in bacon, secured them with a toothpick, then baked at 425 until they were brown and crispy. This is EXCELLENT. How can you beat salty/smoky/sweet bacony goodness?

The cauliflower is really good. I may have left the pieces a bit too big, because the egg wasn't so much binding stuff as forming a layer on the bottom of the pan, but the dish was still good.

The asparagus was a disappointment. I had hoped that baking it for a long time at low temp would bring out the sweetness of the asparagus, but it didn't. So there was no great gain in flavor, the texture was less than ideal (I prefer my asparagus to have a bit of tooth left to it), and it took two hours. This recipe is a loser. :-)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Nano restaurant review: Iberia

On Saturday Andrea and I had lunch at Iberia in Menlo Park. We ordered a bunch of tapas instead of getting "real food" and had a bottle of bubbly with it. We were there for almost 3 hours and had a great time (not just because of the bubbly).

The food ran the gamut from good to excellent and the service was just right. We will be going back.