Monday, December 31, 2007

Week of December 30

Happy (almost) New Year!

Time to start another year of blogging about food and drink. I have gotten some great feedback from you as to what you want to see and read about. As a result, I'll be trying to include more easy-to-make recipes that can be made on a weeknight after work (as opposed to prepping them a few days ahead).

I'll also be tackling some "special projects": these may be show-stoppers for dinner with friends (homemade pasta, candies or a beautiful pastry) or fun food projects (homemade grenadine, preserved lemons, jams and jellies).

No matter what I'm up to, meal planning is still important, so:

On Sunday:
  • I went grocery shopping
  • We went out to dinner at Eastern Standard (order the mahogany clams with house-made smoked sausage if they're available)
Week of December 30

Sunday
Dinner out at the Eastern Standard: Many lovely cocktails and a very delicious dinner

New Year's Eve: Playing Tapas for 2007
Gorgonzola-stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto (no jamon to be found)
Marcona almonds
Chorizo in red wine
Garlic shrimp
Fennel salad
Rice balls with cheese
Eggplant with sherry vinegar
Mahon & membrillo (thanks Mom!)

Peanut Brittle (thanks Ann!) and Fudge (thanks Chryssa!)

New Year's Day
Breakfast: Kouign Amann, courtesy of David Lebovitz
Lunch: Lentil salad with chorizo
Dinner:
Reubens on seeded rye
Carrot salad

Wednesday
Meatloaf
Mashed potatoes
Oven-roasted brussels sprouts

Thursday
Mark Bittman's Autumn millet bake (courtesy of 101 Cookbooks)
Steamed green beans with shallots

Friday
Chicken Marsala
Orzo with roasted garlic
Green salad

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Drink of the Week: Hague Cocktail

Have you tried Chartreuse yet? It's a French liqueur which is produced by Carthusian monks (their order is located just Southwest of Lyons, France). It is flavored with 130 different herbs and only two monks know the entire recipe. Chartreuse is distilled in both green and yellow versions. The green is higher in proof and is more herbal in flavor.

Chartreuse may be drunk straight as a pre- or post-dinner drink, but it also mixes wonderfully in cocktails.

This is the Hague Cocktail: a marvelous way to use Green Chartreuse in a drink. The herbal quality of the Chartreuse blends beautifully with the herbal notes in the vermouth.

Hague Cocktail

Stir (do not shake) in an iced mixing glass:
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce Green Chartreuse
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Serve in an iced martini glass. (Technically, this should be garnished with a cherry, but I had none on hand.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Back in the Kitchen

Okay, that was longer than a week. But I am back.

I have made a major change in my life. Earlier this month, I left the company I worked for for nearly five years. It wasn't an easy decision and I miss my great friends and co-workers dearly, but this leads to the next stage in my professional life.

I left my job to start my own personal chef and catering services company. I'm still fleshing out a lot of the details and will bring you up to date once I am open for business.

In the meantime, I will still be posting here and will keep the recipe ideas coming.

Have a great holiday season!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Brown Sugar Butter Cake

Okay, finally. I have been promising people this recipe for a looooong time.

The original recipe for this cake comes from Gourmet magazine. That version has you make blackberry jam and frosts the cake with an Italian buttercream (marshmallow-like frosting). I tasted this cake at my mother's house. Instead of the buttercream, she used cream cheese frosting and it was a great combination.

I have adopted this cake wholeheartedly and it has become an active part of my repertoire. A few major points in its favor:
  • Everybody loves it. Seriously, not one person has expressed anything but absolute delight about this cake.
  • It's easy to make.
  • It freezes really well. You can make layers in advance and thaw them as you need them.
This first picture is of the wedding cake I made with this recipe. It took 4 batches of the recipe to make and was really enjoyed by everyone at the party where it was served.

Later, I made a mini-cake batch. One batch of batter will fill 6 4" mini cake pans. This picture is of what happens when you only use 4 4" mini cake pans and pretend that it won't matter. Ah well, I trimmed off the messiness and went onward.

Further down in this post is a shot of an ice cream cake I made with one of these 4" layers. I cut it in half, put softened ice cream in the center and then covered it with a chocolate ganache. Into the freezer and to serve when it's firmed up. Yum.

Brown Sugar Butter Cake
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (find it at Trader Joe's, or pulse almonds with the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor until finely ground)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs

Makes 3 8" or 9" layers, 1 12" layer, 6 4" mini-cakes

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix together the almond meal with 1/2 cup sugar. (Or, if using whole almonds, pulse nuts with sugar in a food processor until finely ground.)

Generously butter cake pans and divided nut mixture between pans. Shake each pan to cover sides and bottom with nut mixture. Leave any extra nut mix in the bottom of each pan.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk, lemon zest and vanilla in a small bowl or pitcher.

Beat together butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup sugar in bowl of mixer with paddle attachment at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing just until batter is smooth. Divide batter among your cake pans.

Bake, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in centers of cakes comes out clean and edges begin to pull away from sides of pans. About 30 minutes for 8" or 9" pans, 20 for 4" pans, and 45 minutes for one large 12" layer.

Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of each pan. Invert racks over pans, then flip cakes onto racks to cool completely, about 1 hour.

If freezing your layers, wrap them well in plastic wrap before freezing. When thawing, put the layers into the refrigerator and let them thaw 24 hours before using.

To serve: Make a batch of cream cheese frosting. Try one from Joy of Cooking or the Silver Palate. A really good version is here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Week of December 2

Ok, the holidays have officially hit.

I spent all weekend up to my elbows in melting (read: burning) sugar, so I have no idea what the hell we're eating this week. I pulled a few soups out of the freezer, checked my pasta stash and we're off.

Bottoms up.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Drink of the Week: Kumquat Daiquiri

Did you know that it's kumquat season? Missed that memo, did you? I usually see those lovely little boxes of fruit at the market and buy one. Then it molders away on my counter and then I throw out a bunch of softened, semi-moldy fruit. Sigh.

While it won't use up a whole box of kumquats, this drink is a way to put a dent in your supply. You can use rum (right) or tequila (left) in this drink, depending on your preference. After an exhaustive taste test, we decided we prefer rum. If you use tequila, this becomes a Kumquatarita.

Kumquat Daiquiri

In shaker, muddle together:
  • 4-5 kumquats (easier if you cut them in half first)
  • small spoonful sugar
Fill shaker with ice, and add:
  • 2 ounces rum
  • juice of 1/2 lime (just squeeze it in)
Shake, shake, shake. Serve up or on the rocks. Garnish with mint, sliced kumquat or lime wheel.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pasta Inspiration

Got home on Wednesday night, not too excited to make the healthful vegetarian option I had planned for that evening. Then Dave expressed a desire for something a little basic and comforting, like pasta.

So, I jumped into the fray and created this dish for us. I chopped up some butternut squash and sauteed the cubes until they were lightly browned and softened. Then I tossed in a sliced leek, sauteed some more. Threw in the broccoli. Tossed the whole thing over pasta with farmer and parmesan cheeses. Quite a success.

Next time, I will make this so there are more veggies in the sauce, and that's the way I wrote the recipe up for you.

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Leeks and Broccoli
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (little bite-sized cubes, about dice-sized - 1/2 a medium squash)
  • 3/4 cup sliced leek (about 1 medium leek, including some of the green part of the leek - could also use 1/2 scallion, if leeks are unavailable)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli
  • 8 oz. pasta (shells, rigatoni, penne)
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup crumbled farmer's cheese (or feta)
In a large skillet, heat up a little olive oil. When hot, toss in the squash. Saute over high heat until browning and softened (about 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of your cubes). Add the leeks to the skillet. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and garlic and saute - add a little water (about 1/4 cup) to the skillet if everything seems too dry. The sauce is done when the broccoli is cooked (still crisp-tender).

In the meantime, boil up your pasta. If the sauce is done ahead of the pasta, just hold it on low heat until the pasta is finished. Toss the pasta with the vegetable sauce and the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Week of November 25

Welcome back from your Thanksgiving holiday. We had a very restful and thankful four days off and hope you did too. Now that the starting gun for the holiday season has gone off, I hope to remain mindful of what's truly important while managing the stressful aspects of this time of year.

I did most of cooking on Saturday this week, as Sunday was spent at a Pampered Chef party at my friend Jim's house. It was a lot of fun and I spent too much money (fun!).

On Saturday, I:
  • Made the Shrimp Gumbo from the December issue of Fine Cooking
  • Made French Onion Soup (sort of) from the December issue of Saveur (I added creamed onions and mashed potatoes left over from Thanksgiving dinner)
  • Cooked up some beans on the woodstove
  • Prepped green salads
  • Made Saturday dinner :-)
Menu for the Week
Saturday
Indian dinner
Chicken with Indian spices (adapted from December Fine Cooking)
Spinach with paneer
Moon dal
Parathas

Sunday
Pan fried haddock with scallions, garlic, ginger and green chilies
Bok choy with peanuts
White rice

Monday
Shrimp gumbo
Corn bread
Green salad

Tuesday
Semi-French onion soup (has creamed onions and mashed potatoes stirred into it)
Green salad

Wednesday
White bean puree with rosemary and olive oil
Roast butternut squash
Broccoli with lemon and black olives

Thursday
Green curry chicken soup with rice noodles

Friday
Pizza

Friday, November 23, 2007

Drink of the Week: Bald Head Cocktail

First, I have no idea where this drink's name comes from. I found the recipe on CocktailDB by dong a random search for gin-based cocktails. (Anyone out there with an idea?) The name caught my eye, and then I noticed we had all the ingredients on hand, and the choice was made.

What we both found wonderful about this drink was the way the pastis merged with the vermouths to produce a rich, honeyed flavor. It was really great; not "ginny" at all.

Bald Head Cocktail
Shake together in an iced shaker:
  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • dash of pastis (Pernod or Ricard may be names you are familiar with)
Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Week of November 18

This is an "easy" week ... Only three work days to plan for. Oh ... and Thanksgiving. Happy Turkey y'all.

The picture is of my bee-yoo-tee-ful quince caramels (post to come).

On Sunday, I:
  • Did battle with about 10,000 other supermarket shoppers
  • Made Alice Waters' carrot soup
  • Made lentil soup
  • Made Sunday dinner
Menu for the week
Sunday
Italian-style meatloaf
Polenta
Broccoli di rape

Monday
Carrot soup
Ham and cheese sandwiches

Tuesday
Baked pasta with ricotta and mozzarella

Wednesday
Lentil soup

Thanksgiving
Tryptophan Fiesta and recovery period

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Drink of the Week: Pomopolitan

Don't let looks deceive you, this is not Carrie Bradshaw's Cosmopolitan.

I bought a bottle of pomegranate simple syrup and we've been trying it in a few drinks. (Yes, I know that pomegranate simple syrup is technically just grenadine, but a lot of what you can find is just colorful sugar water, no pomegranate involved.)

Pomopolitan
  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. pomegranate simple syrup
  • juice of 1 lime
Put all everything into an iced cocktail shaker and shake shake shake. Strain into a martini glass.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Leeky" Pasta

Last night's dinner was inspired by a recipe from December's Bon Appetit (original here). It was already a pretty easy recipe, but I made it even less fiddly (no parsley-walnut pesto, although it does sound nice). It was on the table in less than 20 minutes and was really satisfying.

Angel Hair Pasta with Leeks and Radicchio
  • 2-3 large leeks, washed, large leaves trimmed off
  • olive oil
  • 1 softball-sized head of radicchio
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • salt and pepper
Set your pasta water aboilin'.

Cut the leeks into 4" long(ish) pieces and then slice (the long way) into long, thin ribbons. Heat a large skillet over high heat and saute the leeks in olive oil with a prinkle of salt until softened and browning in spots.

While the leeks are cooking, slice the radicchio into long shreds (discard the core sections).

After about 10 minutes, the leeks should be softened. Toss in the radicchio and turn down the heat. Add the butter and grate in some parmesan cheese. Toss everything together and hold over a warm flame.

When the water starts boiling, add your angel hair (it won't take long to cook) and cook to al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the leek mixture. Toss in the pine nuts.

Serves about 4

This would be really nice with whole wheat spaghetti.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Butternut Squash Salad

This is another photo from my "oh crap we forgot to take a picture before dinner" series. I just love posting slightly appetizing pictures of leftovers on plastic plates in my office.

Anyhoo ... this is a really great salad. I am not a huge butternut squash fan, and when I do eat it I prefer a savory preparation (no maple syrup or brown sugar for me). This salad is one I read about on Orangette. She lifted it from the Casa Moro Cookbook (which I haven't read yet, but will be soon).

This doesn't really need a recipe, but I'll post it below anyway. The tahini/lemon combo is great on the squash. If you are a cilantro-hater (you know who you are) try parsley, mint and/or fennel fronds instead.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size chunks (your call on what "bite size" means, just make sure the pieces are about the same size)
  • 1 finely minced clove of garlic
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red or sweet onion (or scallions)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (or one of the alternate herb options above)
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (stir it well before measuring)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon's worth of juice)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
Toss the squash with the garlic, a drizzle of olive oil (just so it's shiny, not drenched) and salt to taste. Roast in a 425 oven on a baking sheet until tender and gently browned.

While the squash is roasting, toss the chickpeas, onion and cilantro together in a bowl.

Make the dressing: whisk or shake together (in a jar) the tahini, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil and water. Taste for salt and pepper.

When the squash is done, throw it into the bowl with the chickpeas. Toss with the dressing (you may not need all of it) and serve.

This makes super leftovers, but definitely follow Molly's (and my) advice, and heat the leftovers up to just warm before eating. Toss with a little more dressing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Everyone Loves a Casserole

Well, everyone seemed to love this one.

I brought some of this into the office and everyone who had a bite thought it was great. Sorry for the lousy picture - we didn't take one at home, so this artfully-styled shot of leftovers was taken in my office.

This recipe is lifted pretty liberally from Homesick Texan. I recommend you check out her post for the story of this casserole and her relationship with it.

Don't freak out, this is a long recipe, but it's easy.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Chicken:
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken breast (or 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken)
  • 1 lime
  • sprinkle chili powder
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
or
  • 3 cups cooked chicken

Sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons butter (you need butter to make a roux - you can use olive oil, but use 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (or 1 green pepper and 1 jalapeno, diced)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 1 10oz. can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, original-style (or a can regular diced tomatoes and 2 diced jalapenos)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
Assembly:
  • 10-12 corn tortillas (I really like Whole Foods yellow corn tortillas)
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cups of grated pepper jack and cheddar cheeses
If using raw chicken: Put the chicken on a baking sheet, sprinkle with chili powder and salt. Squeeze lime over the meat and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350 until done, 25 minutes for bonesless breasts, 40+ minutes for bone-in. Set aside until cool and the shred meat into bite size pieces.

If using cooked chicken: Toss chicken with a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of chili powder.

Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium, and add the onions, red bell pepper and poblano pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, until lightly browned and softened.

Add the garlic, flour, cumin, cayenne pepper and chili powder, and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chicken broth and cook on low until mixture is thickened, a few minutes. Stir in the half-and-half or milk and Ro-Tel cover the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pot, and add the sour cream and 1/4 cup of cilantro, and add salt and pepper to taste. Take pot off heat.

Heat up the tortillas (you can do this by adding a bit of oil on an iron skillet and then cooking the tortillas for about 30 seconds on each side, or buy laying tortillas across the open flame of a gas burner).

Ladle 1/2 cup of the sauce onto the bottom of an 11x7 (or 8x10) inch baking pan.

Layer the tortillas along the bottom of the pan (on top of the sauce). Tear tortillas in half if needed to make an even layer. Layer half the chicken, half the remaining sauce, half the remaining cilantro and 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese into the pan.

Make another layer of sauce, chicken, cilantro and cheese. Make sure the top layer is cheese.

If making ahead, refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.

To cook: Bake at 350 for 30 minutes if making right away. A refrigerated casserole will take about 45 minutes to an hour. Either way, bake until browned and bubbling. Serve with sour cream and additional chopped cilantro.

Serves 6-8.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Week of November 11

November is NaBloPoMo. Since I can't keep up with the daily posting schedule, I am apparently trying to make up for it by overdoing it the kitchen every weekend. It's my masochistic streak, I guess.

On Sunday, I:
  • Made confiture de lait per Pim. Our woodstove was hummin' and it provided the perfect even heat needed to cook this stuff for the requisite 3 hours.(!)
  • Made quince caramels, ibid. Therefore, I poached several quinces (see photo), which leads to:
  • Baked a quince tart.
  • Stewed up a pot of white chicken chili.
  • Baked beets.
  • Made chard and mozzarella calzones.
  • Made Sunday dinner.
Menu for the Week
Sunday
Stuffed portobello mushroom caps
Sweet potato oven fries
Sauteed cauliflower with scallions
Quince tart

Monday
White chicken chili
Fennel and orange salad

Tuesday
Falafel plate
Beets with walnut sauce

Wednesday
Calzones with swiss chard and mozzarella

Thursday
Pasta with leeks and radicchio (inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe from the December issue)

Friday
Franks 'n' beans

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gingersnappy Snack

I made the gingersnaps from David Lebovitz's website on Sunday. They are quite delicious (although I think my ginger was a little old - so they aren't quite hot enough. Sounds like it's time for a trip to Penzeys!)

This is a "slice and bake" cookie recipe, which means you don't need to make all the cookies at once. Perfect for the holidays.

Go to David's site for the recipe. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Week of November 4

Recipe-palooza this weekend! Lots of new recipes and a few improvisations, and each one worked pretty well.

This picture is one of the improvs: a salad of shredded radicchio, sliced green apple, pomegranate seeds and pistachios. I sprinkled it with red wine vinegar and a little olive oil. Would be quite festive on a holiday table.

On Sunday, I:
Phew!

Week Menu
Sunday Lunch with Ann
Potato and leek soup
Radicchio and apple salad
Polenta crackers
Ice cream cake

Sunday Dinner
Grilled flank steak, teriyaki style
Roasted mushrooms and broccoli with sesame
Quinoa
Poached pears with gingersnaps

Monday
Butternut squash salad with chickpeas and tahini dressing
Green salad

Tuesday
Sweet potato sausage soup

Wednesday
King Ranch chicken casserole

Thursday
Mushroom barley soup (freezer)
Green salad

Friday
Pierogies
Green salad

Friday, November 2, 2007

Drink of the Week: French Apple

A seasonal cocktail choice. This drink is based on a Canadian Apple (Canadian whiskey and calvados). We didn't have any calvados on hand, but we did have some apple cider and some French armagnac.

So, a drink is born ...

French Apple

Put into an iced cocktail shaker:
  • 1 3/4 oz. rye
  • 3/4 oz. armagnac
  • 3/4 oz. apple cider (not hard cider)
  • squeeze of lemon juice
Shake and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a slice of apple.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Spicy Grain Soup?

This recipe is from Food and Wine magazine via Cream Puffs in Venice. I am always looking for healthy, hearty soups and stews and I am sure that this soup (and myriad versions) will frequently find a place on our table.

When made and served right away, this soup is soupy (duh), but when made ahead and held for two days, it ends up looking like this picture. It becomes a risotto-type dish which could work as a side dish too.

I modified the recipe based on what I had on hand (added quinoa, couldn't find parsnips, etc.); for the "official" recipe check the link below. I am not certain that the initial 45 minutes of simmering really needs to be that long, but everything pureed beautifully with my immersion blender (no pepper skins or unwelcome chunks of garlic).

Spicy Grain Soup (adapted from Food and Wine, November 2007)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 ancho or dried mulato chiles—stemmed, seeded and broken into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved
  • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cilantro sprigs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely diced (same size as mushrooms)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • chopped cilantro, about 1/4 cup
Cook the barley and brown rice (I used my rice cooker and cooked each separately. I see no reason why you couldn't use leftover brown rice that you bought at a Chinese restaurant). Have the grains cooking while you're making the rest of the soup.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the chiles, onion and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, and cilantro sprigs and season with 1 tablespoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender and return to the pan.

Add the mushrooms, black beans and zucchini to the pureed soup and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the barley and rice and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with chopped cilantro, and squeeze a lime wedge over each serving.

Note: This will turn stewy and risotto-like if made ahead. If you want to keep it soupy, don't add the grains until you want to serve: keep them aside, heat the soup base and then scoop in the grains to heat through.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Week of October 28

Sorry guys, weekend got out of hand ... back now.

We had a frost warning in the forecast, so Dave and I pulled all our remaining tomatoes off their vines to save them from freezing up.

Was out of the house all day Saturday, so all shopping and cooking happened on Sunday. On Sunday, I:
  • Made Spicy Grain Soup (from Food and Wine)
  • Prepped Chicken Cacciatore with tomatoes and bacon
  • Cooked chickpeas
  • Parboiled spinach
  • Made Sunday dinner
Week Menu

Sunday

Grilled pork chops
Oven-roasted green beans
Fried green tomatoes
Corn bread

Monday
Spicy grain soup

Tuesday
Chicken cacciatore
Sauteed spinach

Wednesday
Pasta with chorizo and chickpeas (a la Mark Bittman)

Thursday
Chili

Friday
Pizza

Not Quite the Week of October 28

Back shortly.

To tide you over, here's a picture of a lovely calendula blossom from the garden.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

'Shrooms & Hash

Totally legal option.

I love hash. Hash is usually made of potatoes that have been cut up ("hashed") and fried with onions and beets (red flannel hash), corned beef (corned beef hash), smoked salmon (smoked salmon has... you get the point, ya?). Most recipes say to use "leftover" potatoes. When's the last time you had leftover boiled potatoes on hand? Right.

This is a mushroom hash and is great as a side dish for steaks or roasted chicken. You could use fresh mushrooms, but in this version I used dried mushrooms. There's not a lot of bulk provided by these little morsels, but oh ... the flavor.

Most hash recipes have you make everything in a skillet. That works fine, but for a large quantity of hash, I make it in the oven on a large sheet pan.

Mushroom Hash (Serves 4-6)
  • 1/2 cup dried mushrooms, porcini are best, but try what you can find at your market (although I think that shiitakes and morels are the wrong mushrooms for this technique - too fleshy)
  • 4 medium-large potatoes (8 small-medium potatoes or 5 medium potatoes), yukon golds are great for this
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves or garlic, minced or pressed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Put the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the potatoes into small chunks (hash-sized, your call how small. The smaller the pieces, the faster they'll cook.). On a large baking sheet, toss the potatoes and shallots together with enough olive oil to make everything glisten. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Put the pan into the oven.

Let the potatoes cook, stirring them around every 15 minutes or so. After 20-30 minutes, they should be browned and starting to crisp.

Lift the mushrooms out of the water and chop finely. Strain the water through a coffee filter. Take the pan out of the oven and toss into the potatoes: the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and 1/2 cup the soaking water. Put back into the oven for 10 minutes.

Serve hot as a side dish or as a bed for poached or fried eggs. This reheats well.ma

Fresh mushroom variation: Slice about 4 ounces of fresh mushrooms (about half of a box from the supermarket) into thick pieces (about the same thickness and size as you've sliced the potatoes). Put them in with the potatoes at the beginning of the cooking. Use dried mushrooms too, if you wish.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Week of October 21

Goodness. About halfway through last week, Dave mentioned that he was drinking A LOT of water. I looked at my menu, and thanks to the large part Rein's Deli played in our menu plan, the week turned into Hypertension Awareness Week. Lotsa salt. Now that the salt lick has been flushed from our systems (lots of water people, lots), we are ready to move along.

This Sunday, I:
  • Made Shoulder-Season soup (leeks and zucchini - to me, that's summer and fall in one dish)
  • Made Clothilde's Carrot and Rosemary Scones (mine are bigger than hers, but look lovely)
  • Prepped Eggplant Parmesan
  • Sauteed spinach for Wednesday
  • Made a batch of Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce (I swear I will post this shortly) before the summer's over
  • Made Brown-Sugar Butter Cake (post to come)
  • Made Sunday dinner
Week Menu

Sunday
Flank steak with chimichurri sauce
Pinto beans with rosemary
Sliced tomatoes
Salad

Monday
Cream of zucchini and leek soup with yellow peppers
Carrot and rosemary scones

Tuesday
Pasta with broccoli, olives and goat cheese

Wednesday
Eggplant parmesan
Sauteed spinach

Thursday
Chicken cutlets
Quinoa salad
Roast cauliflower

Friday
Pierogies
Green salad

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Drink of the Week: Junior Cocktail

Sorry for the pictureless post. Something's hinky with Blogger (grr!) and I can't post any images right now. (Updated with picture on Sunday morning.)

Anyhoo ... this drink is really good (I say that a lot, don't I?). It requires that you own Benedictine, which according to the distiller's web site is "a judicious blend of the recipes created by Dom Bernardo Vincelli and by Alexandre Le Grand. It is made up of 27 plants and spices which come from the four corners of the globe." Benedictine also has the "zest of eternity." I didn't drink enough of these to figure out what that meant.

This cocktail tastes like a really good lime-flavored Jolly Rancher, and I mean that in the best possible way. It is not too sweet and has a remarkable full flavor.

Junior Cocktail

In an iced cocktail shaker, shake together:
  • 2 oz. rye
  • 3/4 oz. Benedictine
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • dash Angostura bitters
Strain into a chilled martini glass.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Beautiful Beans

This is lovely little side dish. I started roasting my green beans after I read an article about the method in Cook's Illustrated. It's really a great technique: it's relatively hands-off, it works well with crappy out of season beans, and the beans taste really good when they're done.

The roasting intensifies the bean flavors and it's really easy to toss the cooked beans with herbs or other seasonings. These are also great cold or at room temperature.

Roasted Green Beans
  • 4 small handfuls green beans (enough for 4 servings, eyeball the portion size) - I used green, purple and yellow green beans
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • minced herbs or garlic (optional)
Cut the stem end off the green beans and remove the strings if they are tough. On a large baking sheet toss the beans with enough oil so they're glistening. (Don't use so much oil that the beans are sitting in a pool of it.) Sprinkle with a little salt.

Put the baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees. After 10-15 minutes, stir the beans around; they should be browning and softening.

After another 10 minutes, toss the beans with the herbs. If you're using garlic, toss the garlic with it and then put the beans back in the oven for a few minutes.

Serve.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Week of October 14

This is picture of dried porcini mushrooms. They were a key ingredient in tonight's mushroom hash. Yum.

I was away all weekend so didn't get do to any cooking. So, this week's menu is a prize example of the "hunt and gather" philosophy of meal planning. I was down in New Jersey for the weekend, and on my drive back North, I stopped at the standard Boston-New York way station just north of Hartford: Rein's Deli in Vernon, Connecticut. That one pit stop allowed me to supplement my pantry staples and create a fun little meal plan.

This Sunday, I:
  • Went shopping.
  • Sent my husband to the supermarket. :-)
Menu for the Week

Sunday
Dirty steak
Lazy mushroom hash (post to come)
Roasted green beans with thyme and marjoram

Monday
Pastrami sandwiches (pastrami and rye bread from Rein's)

Tuesday
White bean salad with smoked fish (salmon and sable from Rein's)

Wednesday
Kielbasa with red cabbage

Thursday
Chili (and again ... thank you Rein's)

Friday
Chinese dumplings

Friday, October 12, 2007

Drink of the Week: $12 Martini

On a whim, I bought a copy of Food and Wine Cocktails 2007. I do recommend it, it's a great little book with lots of great cocktail ideas.

This is one we tried tonight: it's called the $12 Martini. It was absolutely delicious and the perfect way to start my Friday night.

According to the book, this drink was created at Saucebox in Portland, Oregon and is named to make fun of the high-dollar cocktail craze.

The $12 Martini
  • 3 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/2 Scotch (the recipe calls for an Islay, be we used Johnny Walker Black)
  • 1/2 ounce Pernod
Over ice in a mixing glass, mix together the gin, vermouth and Scotch. Rinse a chilled martini glass with the Pernod (swirl the Pernod around the glass and toss it out). Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You Dirty Ratatouille

Most of our meals this week are coming from the freezer (mac and cheese, Noney's sauce) or from the hit parade (red lentil soup), so there's nothing very exciting to post. So here's something different for you to try.

I know Fall is here, but you have about one week left to eat your last fresh eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and other such summery vegetables.

This baked ratatouille idea is liberally lifted from Smitten Kitchen. But something this good should be appropriated and adopted as your own. It's pretty, it's delicious and you can bake it ahead and serve at room temperature. Genius dish. (Apologies for the 1970's-era glamour shot.)

Baked Ratatouille
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 zucchini (1 yellow, 1 green if possible)
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • herbs: basil, thyme, chives (optional)
Slice all your vegetables into thin rounds. What's important is that they're all sliced to the same thickness, so if you can only slice 1/4" slices, that's fine. I like them thinthinthin and use my mandoline.

Layer the vegetables into a baking dish like so:

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss finely chopped fresh herbs over the top if you wish. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with foil.

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. Take the foil off and bake another 10-15 minutes. Everything should be cooked through but not mushy.

This dish is great at room temp and is very good when baked a day ahead and left to mellow in the fridge.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Week of October 7

I am one of the fortunate few who works for a company which observes Columbus Day (yay me!). Thus my normal Sunday post is happening on Monday. Four-day week aside, this weekend was busy and the rest of week will be no better. Therefore, my meal plan is very made-ahead. I am harvesting some main dishes from the freezer and will be supplementing them with fresh side dishes from the farmstand.

On Monday I:
  • Made red lentil soup (with addition of fresh tomatoes)
  • Took Noney's tomato sauce out of the freezer
  • Took two portions of macaroni and cheese out of the freezer
  • Make Monday dinner

Week Menu

Sunday

Chicken piccata (with lemon and capers)
Roasted beets with chervil and chives
Sauteed spinach
Roasted fingerling potatoes

Monday
Grilled sausage
Zucchini fritters
Tomato salad

Tuesday
Penne with Noney's tomato sauce

Wednesday
Red lentil soup with tomatoes
Cucumber salad

Thursday
Macaroni and cheese
Green beans

Friday
Pizza

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Drink of the Week: Bicyclette

Summer's not over yet! This is a really nice aperitif in that it's not too alcoholic (in other words, one or two won't knock you on your heiney).

A Bicyclette is similar to an Italian apertivo called a Spritz. A Spritz is made of a bitter apertivo (usually Campari) mixed with prosecco (usually in a 1 to 2 ratio). Ver' nice.

The Bicyclette is a little simpler and you may have the ingredients at hand. White wine and sparkling water take the place of the prosecco. It's a refreshing, very drinkable drink.

Bicyclette

Put a few ice cubes into a shaker glass. Mix together:
  • 2 oz. white wine
  • 1 1/12 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sparkling water
Pour over ice. Garnish with an orange or lemon slice.

A great variation is made with Aperol substituted for the Campari. Aperol is newly available in the US. It looks like orange Robitussin but does not taste medicinal in any way. It's orange-flavored, with a gentle bitter note.

An Aperol Bicyclette looks a little like orange Fanta.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Reruns - Just as Good the Second TIme

We had Muhammara and Tabouli for dinner the other night. Links to both recipes are here and here.

I did two things differently and with success: The tabouli was made with millet instead of bulgur wheat. The muhammara recipe calls for walnuts and this time I used toasted pine nuts.

Both were delicious and enjoyed by all. Just a reminder that you can adjust recipes for what you have in house. If I hadn't had pine nuts, I might have used walnuts. If no millet, maybe couscous or quinoa or a little pasta like orzo.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Grilled Sausage Ragout

No, I don't have a fog machine in my kitchen. That's steeeam, baby.

I brought this to the office yesterday and it was inhaled by my crew of tasters. I think this would be very nice over pasta (rigatoni or shells). At home, we had it with garlic toast.

This recipe uses the grill, both to add flavor and to keep the kitchen neat. You should feel free to saute everything instead if you prefer or if you don't have a grill at hand.

Grilled Sausage Ragout, serves 6
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers (or 1 cup roasted red peppers from a jar)
  • 8 sausages (italian, garlic and cheese, etc. - no maple or apple)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped or torn coarsely
Heat your gas grill to medium heat. (I am no master of the charcoal grill, but if using charcoal: indirect heat for this step.)

Slice the eggplant (the short way) into thick rounds (about 3/4" thick). Brush with olive oil and put on the grill.

Slice the bell peppers into large pieces (you'll be cutting them smaller later). Brush with oil and put on the grill. Grill the vegetables slowly, until the red peppers' skins are brown and crackly and the eggplant is soft through (15-20 minutes). Set the vegetables aside.

Turn the heat up on the grill and cook the sausages until done. Refrigerate all these items until you are ready make the ragout.

Make the ragout: Cut the roasted eggplant into large chunks. Peel the skins off the peppers and tear the peppers into bite-sized pieces (discard the skins). Cut the sausage into rounds. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks. Put everything into a large saucepan or dutch oven on the stove. Heat everything together, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes and eggplant will break down, making a thick sauce. (This will take about 15 minutes.) Press the garlic through a garlic press and stir in to the ragout.

When the ragout is heated through and the tomatoes have broken down, stir in the basil. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve.

This tastes better the next day.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Week of September 30

Hoo. Back to business this week. Not much time to post this weekend, so let's get down to brass tacks (whatever that means).

On Sunday, I:
  • Made tabouli (with millet instead of bulgur)
  • Made muhammara
  • Hard-boiled some eggs for the nicoise salad
  • Grilled zucchini and eggplant for sandwiches (and Sunday dinner)
  • Prepped chicken cacciatore (post to come!)
  • Made Sunday dinner
Menu for the Week

Sunday
Sausage ratatouille
Roasted delicata squash
Garlic bread

Monday
Millet tabouli
Muhammara
Zucchini carpaccio

Tuesday
Chicken cacciatore all Noney
Roasted potatoes
Steamed broccoli

Wednesday
Nicoise salad

Thursday
Beef stir fry
Bok choy
Rice

Friday
Quesadillas
Cole slaw

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pasta with Tomato-Porcini Cream Sauce

Ooh, check out that action shot! Sorry there is no picture of the finished dish ... imagine if you will, a pinkish sauce, studded with slices of mushrooms, enrobing a hot plate of pasta ... but hey, look how fast my hand is moving. Pretty spiffy.

This is a recipe I created for my in-laws 50th anniversary party. I needed a not-too-fussy recipe that could be made (mostly) ahead, that would satisfy the vegetarians (not vegans) in the group, and that would be deliciously worthy of being served to a fairly discerning crowd of relatives.

This dish ended up filling the bill on all counts: I made the sauce and pasta the day before, I spotted one of the vegetarians taking a third helping, and my (very discerning) mother-in-law took some home as leftovers. All in all, a great success.

A major ingredient in this dish is the marinara sauce. I have had great success with Trader Joe's Sugo de Pomodoro; just be sure to choose a very tomatoey marinara, ideally one you would actually sauce pasta with. I used a "convenience" food for this dish because I needed to make so much of it (enough to sauce six to seven pounds of pasta) and I did not have the time to make a tomato sauce from scratch.

Tomato-Porcini Cream Sauce serves 4 - 6 when used to sauce one pound of pasta
  • 1/4 cup dried porcini (you can find these in speciality stores)
  • 10 oz. fresh mushrooms (cremini, baby bella, or white), sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28 oz. can marinara sauce
  • pinch of dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in enough warm water to cover.

Thinly slice the fresh mushrooms. Heat a large skillet or dutch oven and pour in the oil. When hot, put in the fresh mushrooms and saute until browned and most of their liquid has boiled off.

While the mushrooms are sauteing, lift the soaked (now not so dry) dried mushrooms out of the water. Squeeze them (over the bowl) to get a little of the water out of them. Chop the dried mushrooms and add them to the fresh mushrooms in the pan.

Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter or a cheesecloth lined strainer and add it to the pan.

Let the liquid boil down until there are only a few tablespoons of liquid left. Add the marinara sauce, thyme and cream. (Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to move this operation to a larger saucepan.)

Bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes or so, then taste for salt and pepper. Correct seasoning if needed.

Recipe notes:

I like this with a short, sauce-catching pasta like pennette, gemelli, fusilli, or campanelle.

To make ahead: Make the sauce and refrigerate. Boil the pasta until it's just underdone (it should be a little tougher than you would like it normally). Drain the pasta and cool it down by running cold water over it. Toss the pasta with a little olive oil.

When ready to serve, heat up the sauce. Put the pasta into the sauce and stir occasionally until heated through (5-10 minutes). The pasta will cook through in the hot sauce and will become tender. The recipe scales easily, just saute the mushrooms in batches (In my enormous skillet, I sauteed six 10 oz. boxes of mushrooms in about 4 batches.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Did You Do This Weekend?

This is what I did. No, I didn't get married.

I did help out with a joint 50th Anniversary Party for my in-laws and my hubby's aunt and uncle (double ceremony, you know). 'Twas very classy and everyone had a simply smashing afternoon.

I had a grand time seeing everyone at the party. I also had a wonderful time trying out my make-ahead techniques on a catered lunch for almost 70 people!

My next few posts will highlight some of the items I made for this event. They'll be scaled down for everyday portions, but I'll include my make-ahead tips too.

The Menu

Smoked salmon with tzatziki
Cheese and crackers
Crudites
Olive spread
White bean hummus
All apps were brought in by other family members

Chicken cacciatore alla Noney
Baked polenta with cheeses
Pasta with tomato-porcini cream sauce
Broccoli and broccoli rabe with gremolata (lemon, garlic and parsley) and pine nuts

Wedding cake (Brown sugar butter cake with fruit and cream cheese frosting)
Cookies
Fruit salad

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Drink of the Week: Good Witch Bad Witch Cocktail

Picture to come, I promise. I am on the road and forgot to bring the cable doohickey for my camera. (Updated 9/25, doohickey retrieved, my drink is ensconced in a bed of rue. Rue may not be a Strega herb, but it smells like one.)

I wanted a Negroni last night (post on that one soon), but I was in a Campari-free household. I perused the [very] random assortment of other beverage in the liquor cabinet and saw Strega. Strega, like Campari, is a digestivo/apertivo. They are both herbal and fairly high in proof (around 80), but Campari is a beautiful ruby color. Strega looks a little like pee. Mmm, appetizing. So, I thought I would try to develop a Negroni-esque cocktail with Strega. Hm.

Since Strega means "witch" in Italian and half the people I gave a sip of this to were not crazy about it while the other half liked it, I have dubbed it the Good Witch Bad Witch Cocktail.

Good Witch Bad Witch Cocktail

Mix in a shaker:
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Strega
  • two dashes bitters
Shake to combine and serve over ice.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tomato Pie

Okay, so you've made sauce, filled your freezer, eaten a caprese salad every day of the last week ... just what do you do with those tomatoes?

This recipe won't use up your entire stash, but it's a nice lunch or dinner idea. The leftovers reheat well too.

The idea is to make the top and bottom crust out of biscuit dough. You layer tomatoes, cheese and herbs as the filling. Bake and eat. It's easy and if you're fearful of biscuit-making, it may ease your anxieties on that front too.

The recipe I use has been lifted from Laurie Colwin's book More Home Cooking (more on that below).

Tomato Pie

Biscuit Crust
  • 2 cups flour ( I used 1 cup each of white and wheat flours for this batch)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4-6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (more butter makes a richer crust)
  • 3/4 cup milk
(I'm writing this for the non-biscuit makers out there - the biscuitophiles among you know what to do.) Fear not. Biscuit making will take you five minutes. I swear.

Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into little cubes and toss them into the flour. Toss the butter cubes (with your hand) around until they are coated in flour.

Now you're going to "cut in" the butter. Some people use knives, a pastry cutter (special equipment alert) or such implements to do this, but I use my hands. With your clean hands (you've already washed them right?) reach into the flour and butter and rub the flour into the butter cubes: pull some flour/butter onto one hand and then rub rub rub more flour and butter into that hand. As you rub, let the flour and butter fall into the bowl. You're rubbing the flour and butter together. The goal is to have a crumby-crumbly blend of butter and flour. Trust. This isn't that hard and some people get all freaked about it. Your great-grandmother did this and that was way before the age of Cuisinart and the Food Network.

When the flour and butter are blended and what's in your bowl looks shaggy and breadcrumb-like, stir in the milk. You will end up with a wettish biscuit dough.

See. Five minutes. Or so. Now you can make the pie ...

Tomato Pie Construction
  • 1 batch biscuit dough made with 2 cups flour (see above)
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, sliced
  • handful of herbs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (parmesan, cheddar, romano, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Pat half of the biscuit dough into a 9" pie pan or baking dish. It is easy to do this if you dampen your hands with cool water: the dough won't stick.

Layer sliced tomatoes over the biscuit dough. Sprinkle chopped herbs and cheese over the tomatoes. Dollop little squiggles of mayo over the top of that (to be honest, I don't think this does much, but Laurie says to do it, so I do).

Take the other half of the biscuit dough and flatten it over the top of the tomatoes. Depending on the size of your dish, you may get a full top crust or a more cobbler-type top. This dish was bigger, so I laid smaller pieces of the dough over the top and let the tomatoes peek through.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes before eating; those tomatoes will be hot!

You can also make this with canned whole tomatoes (1 large can, drained) when you can't find good fresh ones. The textures are different, but the flavors are great.


More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. This book and its predecessor, Home Cooking, are composed of essays Laurie Colwin wrote for Gourmet magazine in the nineties. They are comfortable, cozy books, sometimes a wee bit too cutesy I'll admit, but they are great to curl up with for inspiration or companionship. Nothing in these books is outside the ability of a beginning cook and Laurie is nothing but reassuring.

Both are actually still in print, praise be. Find Home Cooking and More Home Cooking here. The recently released collection Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant is named after an essay of Colwin's.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Week of September 16

Those are roasted tomatoes. Slice some tomatoes in half, squeeze out the seeds, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and basil. Bake for 30 minutes at 400. Great on toasted bread or over pasta.

There, now you know what you're having for dinner tomorrow night. Don't forget folks, tomato season is coming to a close (at least here in the northeast) so make sure you keep eating all the local tomatoes you can.

One rerun from last week in this week's menu: zucchini and greens soup. Goodness was that good. So good, it's gotten another spot in the rotation right away.

On Sunday I will:
  • Make Zucchini and greens soup
  • Make pizza dough for the freezer (enough for 3 pizzas)
  • Make Sunday dinner
Menu for the Week of September 16
Sunday
Campanelle with a porcini mushroom tomato cream sauce

Monday
Zucchini and greens soup

Tuesday
Home-smoked bluefish fillet
Grilled eggplant and peppers with herbed vinaigrette
Green beans tapenade

Wednesday
"Sliders" (mini-burgers)
Corn on the cob
Tomato salad

Thursday
Pizza

Friday
Dinner out

Drink of the Week: Hanky Panky

I drank my first Hanky Panky at the Eastern Standard last week. I drank my second on Friday at home. ES has it on their impressive cocktail list in honor of LUPEC Boston's efforts to raise awareness (and funds for) Jane Doe Inc, the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

I do recommend you do yourself a favor and get yourself to Eastern Standard where Jackson, Tom, Nicole or Beth can explain the provenance of this drink for you. And you'll be doing a good deed too (a portion of the sale price goes to Jane Doe). If you can't make it into Boston, you'll have to make your own.

Hanky Panky Cocktail

Chill a martini glass. Pour into a shaker:
  • 1 1/2 oz. Beefeater gin
  • 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • spoonful of Fernet Branca*
Stir together and strain into your glass. Garnish with a strip of lemon zest.

(ETA: to recommend stirring vs. shaking to combine)

* Fernet is the special ingredient in this drink - without it, this is just a really sweet martini. If you don't own a bottle of Fernet you'll be shocked by how pricey it is when you buy it. Don't worry, if you use it only for drinks like these, the bottle will last you for years. However, if you become enamored of Fernet's digestive properties, you'll blow through a bottle every month or so. Either way, it'll be worth it.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Trip Report: Montreal - La Montee de Lait

La Montee de Lait
371 Villeneuve Est (just off Rue St. Denis), Montreal, 514-289-9921 (reservations recommended)
Metro: Laurier or Mont-Royal

La Montee de Lait is a tiny place. 12 tables fill the space and a banquette runs down one side of the room. The menu is only available in French but is conveniently posted in the window, so we spent a few minutes deciphering everything before we went in for our reservation.

The restaurant serves a four-course prix fixe menu for about $40 (Canadian). You select any four items from the menu to create your meal (the portions are all about the same size, and while they looked small, we both we quite satisfied by the meal). We took quite a traditional path through the menu: seafood, pasta, meat, cheese, then dessert, but you don't have to be that rigid. Get four salads if you want, or four desserts!

The wine list is extensive but did not have anything we recognized on it. We relied entirely on our server's recommendations for our wine choices and were extremely happy with them.

For our first course, we had two seafood dishes. One was an incredibly thick piece of swordfish, sear-roasted and placed over roasted chanterelle mushrooms and an aioli. It was garnished with a tempura-battered scallion. The swordfish was incredible: juicy throughout and cooked properly. The other was a "Nicoise scallop": a seared scallop served with green beans tossed with tapenade, cherry tomatoes and a hard boiled quail egg. The platings for these dishes (all the dishes actually) were just gorgeous.

Our second course was two pasta dishes. The first was a bowl of ricotta-stuffed gnocchi served in a "bacon broth" (I don't know else what was in it, but it was really delicious). The other dish was a mimolette ravioli with roasted tomatoes, parsley and onion rings.

The third course was two meat dishes. We had a rabbit terrine (served at room tempertature) with a foie gras mousse, arugula salad and a red berry jam. We also had quail, the leg was given a confit treatment and served with morels, the breast was stuffed and served with flash-fried carrots.

We finished the night with a cheese plate and dessert. One cheese was a camembert and I do not recall the name of the other. They were served with poached apricots and toasted pecans.

For dessert, we shared a caramelized fig tart with ice cream (I recall the ice cream was a very interesting flavor. Ricotta? Goat's milk?).

This meal was really the highlight of our trip. The service, the room, the food and the wine were all excellent. Everyone else seemed to be having as lovely a meal as we were. I can't thank the folks over at ... an endless banquet enough for this recommendation.
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