Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tuesday Night: Snapper and Pasta

Last night I made the other piece of snapper we got on Sunday. I more or less followed a recipe from Hazan for fish steaks sauced with wine-cooked onions and anchovies, though of course I was using snapper fillets instead of steaks. Still, with a bit of adjustment (finish the fish in the sautee pan, then sauce it in on the plate) it turned out great.

To accompany this I made some pappardelle and "sauced" them with good olive oil, the remaining Tuada cheese (it was a bit too dry to eat plain), some fresh parsley, and black pepper. I also sauteed some asparagus.

And a side salad.

Wine: Mauritsons 2003 Sauvignon Blanc

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Monday Night Fish

Last night was a bit of a butter and ginger extravaganza in our house.

Our main course was sauteed red snapper fillet topped with a lime-ginger beurre noisette. To go with this I made sauteed asparagus with crispy ginger threads and a batch of short-grain rice to soak up the buttery goodness.

For the beurre noisette:
3 Tbs butter
1 Tbs finely chopped young ginger (I don't think this would have been as good with older ginger).
Juice of 1/2 a lime

Get the butter to the noisette stage in a small saucepan. Toss in the ginger and set the pan on ice to stop the cooking. When you're ready to serve, warm over very low heat and add some of the lime juice and a pinch of sugar (to balance the acidity of the lime). Taste and adjust sugar and lime quantities.

This was some seriously good food.

There was also the requisite green salad.

Wine: A.G. Ferrari Prosecco.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Futurist Madness

Jon has a copy of a Futurist cookbook and has been suggesting that we do a futurist dinner party for a while. Somehow this actually happened this weekend.

Andrea and I don't really understand futurism, so we figured that we'd go with doing something odd to a familiar dish, oh and regular geometric forms. Regular geometric forms are hard to realize with unadulterated food, so we needed a trick of some kind. The trick in this case was aspic; which I had been wanting to try out for a while anyway.

Luckily I had a bunch of aspic guidance in Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques (what's classic French cooking without aspic glazes and plate decorations?) and my 1940s edition of Joy of Cooking (20 whole pages of molded salads!), because none of my normal cookbooks even mention it. Hey Mark Bittman: it's not really How to Cook Everything if you don't have a single aspic recipe!

For the aspic itself, I followed the recipe in Techniques pretty much verbatim. The base stock for this is a good thing to revisit since it's a relatively simple clear broth. Even the egg white part wasn't overly fussy.

The overall theme for the dish was roasted chicken and vegetables, freed from the tyranny of biological form (Is that futurist? I have no idea, but the thought makes me giggle a little bit.). So I made roasted chicken in the form of meatballs; the stuffing was done with breadcrumbs, egg yolks, onions, and herbs mixed into the meat (no distinct filling, that would have been nasty). To make things appropriately geometric, the meatballs were embedded in aspic cubes (pour a thin layer of aspic; let it set up in the fridge; add the cooled sauteed meatballs; pour over more aspic to cover). The vegetables were diced tomato aspic, diced pea aspic, diced carrots (roasted a bit after dicing to get them tender), and diced beets (roasted before dicing).

Finally, since many of the futurist recipes in the book seemed to include cologne, I made a "scent bowl" to accompany the food by tossing a bunch of thyme, marjoram, and lemon verbena into everclear and letting them extract overnight. To serve we strained the crazy-green liquid, put it in bowls with a bit of warm water, and put those on the table next to the serving platter. The idea was to waft some of the herb smell over your plate as serving and eating, but we forgot to move a bowl to the table while eating, so that didn't really happen and the gimmick stayed a gimmick.

Here's a quickie picture of the resulting serving plate (scent bowls not visible), I'm sure Andrea will produce a nicer one, but this is a start:

Some aspic lessons:

  1. This stuff is actually very tasty. Big chunks of it (like the meatballs) are excessive, but in small quantities it's nice. Particularly the peas.
  2. When layering aspic it's really important to make sure that neither the base layer nor the new stuff is too cold. We had to add a second top layer to the meatballs to get them completely covered and I poured it on too cold; it didn't really adhere at all.
  3. The recipes for tomato and pea aspic in Techniques are for a plate garnish. The resulting aspics really weren't really firm enough to dice. The resulting texture was more pleasing to eat than it probably would have been if it were harder, but dicing it certainly was a fiddly pain in the ass.
We have some other pictures of other people's creations, including Jon's Meatloafians worshipping at Cati's amazing food pyramid (starting at the top: goat cheese, pate, tomato mousse, "kale thing", baguette), that I'll probably end up posting later.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


The last couple of nights we've had dessert in the form of three cheeses and a glass of Bonny Doon vin de glaciere. The cheeses, from the Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building are:

  1. Clisson: a semi-soft French goats milk cheese
  2. Tuada: an Italian pecorino
  3. Roncal: a Spanish sheeps milk cheese
These were suggestions from one of the very helpful counter folks at Cowgirl. They are all very good.

Wednesday: Leftover Chicken, risi e bisi

We needed to finish the braised chicken from Tuesday, and didn't have enough other leftovers, so I made a batch of risi e bisi by basically following the "soupy rice with peas" recipe from JPFF, with the small deviation of using 1/2 cup of white wine instead of the last 1/2 cup of stock. This wasn't quite as good as the risotto al limone from back in February; but that stuff is hard to top and this was a lot quicker.

Of course we had a green salad.

Wine: We finished off the bottle of Linchpin.

Tuesday Night: Braised chicken, roasted cauliflower, bratkartoffeln

For the braised chicken, I marinated bone-in breasts in balsamico and salt for an hour or so, browned them in olive oil, added some chicken stock and a good amount of red wine, and let it braise (covered) until the chicken was done. After removing the chicken, I added the 1/2 cup (or so) of remaining red-pepper walnut dip from Andrea's defense and thickened the sauce with a bit of starch.

The cauliflower and bratkartoffeln were done the usual way (goose and duck fat for the potatoes).

There was a green salad.

Wine: Linchpin Shiraz

Monday Night: Pappardelle with sausage and peppers

The sauce recipe was from Hazan; I made it with basil-tomato sausage from TJs, which wasn't really perfect, but the sauce ended up being damn good anyway. Peeling the peppers is definitely worth it.

We also had a green salad.

Wine: St. Francis Sonoma Cty Old Vines Zin, 2003. This wasn't an ideal food wine, but I liked it more than I remember liking the 2002 (at least better than our notes indicated that I liked the 2002).

Monday, May 22, 2006

Backpacking food

This weekend we went backpacking. Dinners were:

  1. Thursday: angel-hair pasta with meat sauce
  2. Friday: couscous with a sauce made from diced beef brisket (from last Sunday) and a packet of oxtail soup
  3. Saturday: powdered mashed potatoes with pieces of sopressata

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tuesday Night: Pasta with fava beans + leftovers

Last night we had friends over to help eat leftovers from Andrea's defense party. Since the remains were all hors d'oeuvres, I also made a simple pasta sauce using fava beans from last week's CSA box and some green garlic and scallions we got at the farmers' market this week:

1 cup very thinly sliced green garlic
1 cup shelled and skinned fava beans
1 cup scallions, 1/4" slices
8 oz ricotta cheese
2 Tbs coarsely chopped parsley
chicken stock
olive oil
salt and black pepper

Cook the garlic slowly with olive oil in a covered pan until it is very soft and caramelizes (mine didn't get very brown, but it did start to have some of that excellent caramelized onion smell). Add the occasional splash of stock if things look dry.
Put the favas in a separate pan and add enough stock to just cover. Add a good pour of olive oil and the scallions, cover and bring to a gently boil. Cook until the beans are tender, a few minutes.
Stir in the ricotta cheese and caramelized garlic and cook over gentle heat until the sauce is warm. Adjust seasonings.
Just before serving, thin with some pasta water if the sauce needs it and stir in the parsley.

I think it would not have hurt to add a bit of lemon zest at the end here.

Cati brought a bunch of new kinds of chocolate that we'll have to make notes about too, but I'm not doing that now.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Andrea's Defense Party: food list

This is a list of the stuff I made:

  1. Gravlax with mustard sauce [both from Bittman], served with cocktail bread
  2. Dips: raita (toasted cumin, cucumber); roasted red pepper and walnuts [BittmanWorld]; pureed white beans with preserved lemon [adapted from BittmanWorld]; beet caviar [BittmanWorld] All served with pita wedges, lavash, "baby" carrots, broccoli and cauliflower
  3. Almond meatballs [BittmanWorld]
  4. Phyllo triangles with feta and spinach [Bittman]
  5. Snacks: Roasted almonds (with pimenton and cumin) [adapted from BittmanWorld]; sambar cashews; roasted garbanzos [Bittman].
  6. Dessert: lemon squares (using Meyer lemon) and cream cheese brownies [both from Bittman]
Most stuff turned out pretty well. The gravlax is exceptional. Specific complaints:
  1. The phyllo triangles were too much work and don't keep well (they lose crispness pretty quickly). They're not worth it for this kind of event.
  2. Baking dessert is soooo not my thing. The brownies tasted ok, but they were way dry. The lemon bars were ugly as hell, but they tasted pretty good (except for the crust, which was pretty flavorless).

Gack! Busy!

Andrea's defense was yesterday, so things have been super hectic. Some catching up:

  1. Saturday dinner: Hamburgers on the grill (1 lb beef, 1/2 lb lamb, garlic, onion) with salad and sauteed broccoli rabe.[CSA] Putting a bit of lamb in the meat mixture is great.
  2. Sunday dinner: Grill roasted/smoked beef brisket (from our cow) with bourbon (actually rye)/onion sauce; asparagus sauteed with shallots; green salad. I brined the brisket overnight with salt, sugar, bay leaf, allspice, and black pepper; coated it with a rub of crushed coriander, and white and black pepper; smoked it with hickory chips; and basted with a mixture of beer and cider vinegar. The results were very, very nice.
  3. I'll post the list of stuff I made for the defense party next.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Wednesday Night: Fried Rice

Wednesday we put the grilled buffalo steaks to another use: fried rice. I fried the remaining rice from Tuesday with onions, red peppers, garlic, some dried chilis, and a bit of soy sauce.

Served with sriracachachacha on the side, this was quite nice.

Wine: Saddleback Cellars 2000 Napa Valley Cab

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tuesday Night: Buffalo-steak rice bowl

For the main dish here, I took some thinly sliced (on the ceramic slicer) onions and cooked them with a bit of oil and soy sauce until they started to soften and brown, then added some mirin and let the onions really start to caramelize. After adding some thinly sliced pieces of grilled buffalo steak I cranked the heat to high for about a minute, then covered the pan and turned off the heat. I served the meat over short-grain rice.

To "go along" with this we had sorrel soup with croutons and a green salad. The soup didn't match the main course at all, but a bit of contrast is good... right? Particularly when each component is good on its own? right?

Wine: Linchpin Shiraz

Monday Night on the Grill

We had a couple of buffalo sirloin steaks that we bought on Saturday drying in the fridge, and they were just screaming (mooing? lowing? what noise *do* buffaloes make?) to go on the grill. So that drove last night's meal.

The steaks I did very simply: coated with a bit of oil, salt, pepper, and some freshly ground coriander, then grilled over a medium-hot fire to medium rare. After letting the steaks rest, I sliced them thin across the grain and served them.

Accompaniments were sliced mushrooms sauteed with shallots, then dosed with balsamico and a touch of soy sauce, and bratkartoffeln cooked in a mixture of duck and goose fat (from the duck confit at the charcuterie night). And a green salad, of course.

There's something nice to say about each component of this meal.

Wine: Linchpin Shiraz

I also made some sorrel soup by sauteing a bit of red onion in butter, adding chicken stock, some potato scraps, and the sorrel I mistakenly cooked last week. To finish this, I added a bit of cream. We didn't eat the soup though; there was enough other food.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sunday Night: Pasta

We had leftover dip from Friday night's bagna cauda to use up, so last night I did a pasta dish.

I started by gently warming the dip in the microwave to get it re-liquified and a bit warm (above room temp at least). I toasted some bread crumbs in a couple Tbs of the oil with a pinch of crushed red pepper. We ate spaghetti dressed with the remaining dip and strewn with bread crumbs.


Friday Night: Bagna Cauda

Since we had a lot of veggies that are suited for it, we had bagna cauda on Friday. I followed the recipe in Hazan for the dip and we ate it with cardoons[CSA], arthichokes, asparagus, and yellow pepper. To serve the dish we jury-rigged a warming dish by setting the bowl with the dip on top of a ramekin in a pot of boiling water. We switched pots of boiler water every 10 minutes to make sure the dip stayed warm.

Before serving, I parboiled the cardoons and steamed the artichokes and asparagus.

This was very nice food.

Wine: Rosemount Estates 2002 GSM. Not the best pairing, but it worked ok.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Thursday: "Oh! So sorrel!"

Last night we finished off the pasta and sauce from Wednesday. To go with it I made a cauliflower[CSA]-parmesan gratin from Hazan and another batch of butter-stewed chard[CSA]. The cauliflower thing, which differs from our normal baked cauliflower in that it's boiled first, was very nice.

However, when I went to adjust the seasonings on the chard, I discovered that I had grabbed the wrong bag from the fridge and cooked the sorrel. That explains why it didn't behave like chard. :-) Even after adding a bit of cream this was still a bit too intense to eat as a vegetable, so it's in the fridge to make soup with. I know I tasted a leaf before I pulled the bag, but I either got a very mild leaf or I was really not paying attention.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Wednesday Night Miscellany

We got a new CSA box yesterday. In this week's box were... cardoons! Two bunches of cardoons, in fact, because there was a bunch in the trade box. Since I've been wanting to cook with cardoons for a while, it was a no brainer to trade a bunch of cilantro for the cardoons.

Of course I had to do something with them last night. I started simple just to get a feeling for what they taste like and how they behave. After figuring out an efficient way to peel the stalks, I cut them into 3 inch strips and tossed them in acidulated water (suggestion from CPV). I boiled them for about half an hour in salted acidulated water, drained them, and then sauteed them off in some olive oil. The taste was still rather bitter to be served plain, so I added some balsamico to the pan to add some acid and sweetness. The end result was good, but not fabulous. I've still got 2-3 meals worth of the veggie left, so I'll see about alternative serving modes. Maybe I can figure some way to use it with the pound of sorrel that also came in this weeks box. A pound of sorrel. A *pound* of sorrel.

I also made a bit of chard [CSA] by parboiling it in salted water and then stewing it with some butter and white pepper. That was very good.

The main course was pasta (fusilli) with a sauce made from caramelized leeks [CSA], tomatoes, lardons, chopped italian sausage (the last of the sausage from the charcuterie night), red wine, and thyme [CSA]. Topped with some parmesan, this was very nice.

Of course we had a green salad too.

The wine was a Valley of the Moon 1999 Barbera. Not great, but not bad.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tuesday Night: Leftovers + Asparagus Poriyal

Last night we did leftover fried chicken and cauliflower sambar. To supplement that, I followed the Dakshin recipe for green bean poriyal, but I used asparagus instead. The results were unusual because we're so used to asparagus with western flavors, but very good.

Memo to self: don't forget the poriyal technique as a general recipe for vegetables.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Monday Night Celebration

Andrea handed in her thesis yesterday, so we had a little celebratory meal. Andrea requested Indian food; this is what I made:

  1. Cauliflower sambar (from Dakshin)
  2. Spicy Indian "home fries" (from BittmanWorld). This is basically home fries with mustard seeds, cumin, chili, and amchoor. I used dried chili instead of fresh, and that was just fine.
  3. Parsi-style fried chicken (from BittmanWorld).
  4. Basmati rice
This made way too much food, but it was all good. I particularly liked the amchoor on the potatoes; it complemented the mustard very well.

The wine was a bottle of A.G. Ferrari prosecco, which matched both the mood and the food.