Tuesday, July 31, 2007
First, you procure some really good tomato sauce. Then you find some amazing fresh ricotta. Make your own (as I did) or go to your area's Little Italy and buy some (NO Polly-O please).
Now, time for dinner. Heat up your sauce (about 2 1/2 cups). Boil up some capellini (a pound) and when it's cooked al dente, toss it with the sauce. Not too much sauce please. See in the picture? The sauce is the condiment, not the meal. Now put a large spoonful of the fresh ricotta on top. Garnish with basil if you'd like - that is purple basil in the picture.
As you eat, twirl some pasta up on your fork, catching some ricotta in the strands.
This seems like it shouldn't be such a big deal, but to me this dish is a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. You must use good ricotta, but you can probably get away with good, bottled pasta sauce. This will not work with cheap-o ricotta and fancy-pants pasta.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Writing my shopping lists is a little more challenging these days. I want to use as much local, fresh produce as I can. So each trip to the market(s) involves a lot of mental inventory-taking and strategizing. My usual approach is to start in my own back yard (literally, in my vegetable garden), then go to my local farmstand (Farmer Bob at Wheeler Brook Farm) and then my other go-to farms (Cider Hill and Woodman's). Then, I go to the supermarket. These places are all really close to each other, so I'm not burning gallons of gas while trying to do the right thing by eating locally.
Still, this requires shopping lists that say things like: "enough vegetables for three side salads", "green beans if nice, otherwise something else for chicken dish", etc. I do have to think on my feet to make sure I get everything I need and to make sure I don't over-buy.
This week I cooked a little on both days, so in full disclosure: on Saturday, I:
- Made Beef Rendang from James Oseland's book Cradle of Flavor for dinner. The recipe is here on the Splendid Table website. I say "eh." It was ok but not worth 3+ hours of cooking (what is it with me and these half-day recipes?)
- Made Oven-roasted Tomato Sauce. I will post this, I promise.
- Baked a Brown-Sugar Cake from Gourmet. (I did not do all the silliness with blackberries and fancy buttercreams - I made a cream cheese frosting and used blueberries.)
- Made ricotta.
- Made tuna and bean salad with chopped green beans, dill, chervil, peppers, chickpeas and kidney beans.
- Frosted aforementioned Brown-Sugar Cake.
- Made Chicken Cacciatore.
- Made polenta to grill.
- Later in the week, I'll pull the gyro patties and cheesesteak meat out of the freezer to thaw.
Zucchini "carpaccio" (thinly sliced zucchini with parmesan and lemon)
Angel hair with fresh ricotta and oven-roasted tomato sauce
Brown-sugar cake with blueberries
Tuna and bean salad
Green beans in herb vinaigrette
Fresh beet and cucumber salad
Saturday, July 28, 2007
If you are one of the many folks out there who have been brainwashed by the bone-dry martini crowd into believing that vermouth should be shown to your glass, but never put into it, you should reconsider. Vermouth (either dry or sweet) can add a great note to the flavor profile of your drink. Okay, off the soapbox.
Stir or shake together:
- 1/2 oz. each sweet and dry vermouth
- 2 oz. rye or bourbon whiskey (I prefer rye)
- dash bitters
Monday, July 23, 2007
This isn't a recipe, per se, but a method. You should feel free to swap vegetables in and out, depending on what you've got available.
Since I like my bread to stay a little crisp, if I am making this ahead, I will put the vegetables in one container and the bread in another. Then right before serving, I will mix them together.
Bread Salad (for four)
Chop into smallish bite-sized pieces and toss in a bowl:
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 2-3 small zucchini or summer squash
- 1 -2 cucumbers
- handful of chives or scallions
- 3 ears cooked corn, cut off the cob
- large handful of basil
Grill or toast 6 thick slices of country bread until crisp. If you'd like, drizzle the bread with a little olive oil prior to grilling. Cut the bread into crouton-sized pieces. Toss the bread in with the vegetables. Serve.
This is very nice with feta or goat cheese tossed into the salad.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I had no time whatsoever to cook anything ahead. So, I planned a menu that uses a lot of fresh veggies from farm stands and a few items from the freezer.
This picture is of a jar of truffle salt - truly amazing stuff. It's truffle pieces blended with sea salt. It adds truffle flavor to anything it's sprinkled over. I used it in my chanterelle and truffle hash for Sunday dinner.
- I went grocery shopping.
- I made Sunday dinner.
- I defrosted bread for sandwiches and the bread salad.
- I defrosted containers of chili and of black-eyed pea dal.
Chanterelle and truffle hash
Green beans with summer savory and thyme
Grilled corn on the cob
Bread salad with Cowgirl Creamery's Inverness goat cheese
Grilled chicken vindaloo
Black-eyed pea dal (dal inspired by this post at Smitten Kitchen)
Quick sauteed zucchini
Angel hair with lobster oil, shrimp, chives and sea beans (inspired by Twist of the Wrist)
Saturday, July 21, 2007
In a cocktail shaker, shake together the following:
1 small wedge grapefruit, squeezed
2 ounces Plymouth gin
1/2 ounce dry French vermouth
Shake, shake, shake. Pour into chilled martini glass.
Monday, July 16, 2007
When I fly I try to re-humanize it as much as possible: I buy trashy magazines, load up my iPod with as many interesting podcasts as I can find, and most importantly, I pack really good food (and lots of it) to eat.
I provision these trips as if if I were off trekking for the next week or so. The new restrictions on liquids, lotions and gels do make it a little harder: can't pack your own beverages (a frozen juice box makes a great cold pack), no yogurt, no PB&J (what has this world come to?). I can still pack a pretty happy flight-time lunchbox, however.
This was to be a long flight (over 6 hours) and had the potential for delays (thunderstorms). In this case I packed one large meal and a generously-portioned snack.
Roasted vegetable and prosciutto sandwich on baguette: parsley butter, roasted eggplant and red pepper, prosciutto, lettuce
Carrot and cabbage slaw with lime-mint vinaigrette
Terra chips (on board snack)
Twin Fin 2003 Cabernet (purchased on board)
Rainer cherries (those pretty yellow and red ones)
World Peace Cookies
Eating this spread occupied me for the better part of an hour (not to mention making my seatmates really jealous).
About an hour before landing I ate my:
Big pre-landing snack
Cheese and crackers
A couple rules for on-board dining:
- DO NOT PACK SMELLY FOOD. No matter how good that stinky cheese, kim chee, or smoked fish looks, you will make no friends fast if you stink up the cabin.
- Pack neat food. Soup is a bad idea. Anything too drippy is also pretty unwise. Remember, if you hit turbulence you may end up wearing whatever you pack.
- Pack food that can hold without refrigeration: vegetable and cold cut sandwiches, bean or vegetable salads in acidic dressings, firm cheeses and crackers are all great.
- Bring something for your seatmates. They are probably eating a really stale sandwich from Cibo Express, so make friends if you can. I usually pack extra dessert in preparation for sharing.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
On Sunday, I will:
- Roast red peppers and eggplants for my plane sandwich and the millet salad.
- Make a cole slaw: shredded cabbage, herbs and an oil and vinegar dressing.
- Make a carrot salad: shredded carrots, chives, cilantro, sliced shallots in a lime vinaigrette.
- Make a millet salad: cooked millet, roasted peppers and eggplant in a parsley vinaigrette.
- Bake some World Peace Cookies. The dough is in the freezer and just needs to be sliced and baked.
- Make and pack my plane dinner.
- Take chili, black bean soup and turkey burgers from the freezer and put them in the fridge to defrost.
This looks like a long list, but it really isn't time consuming. The millet goes into the rice cooker and takes care of itself. The peppers and eggplant go onto the gas grill. While they are cooking cooking, I shred the cabbage and then the carrots in the food processor. As the peppers brown, I toss them into a tupperware container to steam off their skins. Total kitchen time will be about one hour.
Grilled pork chops
Millet salad with red peppers and peas
Black bean soup
Cold cut sandwiches
Friday, July 13, 2007
This is plum agua fresca mixed with tequila blanco. This is a lovely drink: fruity and refreshing, with a very subtle kick.
For those who already have an agua fresca (plum or otherwise) in the fridge: 1 shot of tequila to 3 shots agua fresca. Over ice. Muy bueno.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
This recipe was from Twist of the Wrist, Nancy's Silverton's it's-okay-to-cook-from-cans-and-jars cookbook. This dish was actually provided for the book by Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Feniger, of Too Hot Tamales fame.
What a success this dish was. It can be served with a fried egg on top, as did tonight. But we thought it would be great with grilled or leftover chicken too.
I am not going to post this recipe as it's not mine - I also couldn't find it online to link to. I suggest you get your hands on a copy of the book. The pictures are great and the menu ideas are very inspiring.
A rough idea of what happens: Simmer together bottled salsa and chicken broth. Stir in corn chips (we used Tostitos bite size gold - see pic). After a minute, stir in farmer cheese, chopped onion, jalapenos and cilantro. Remove from heat and set aside. Fry one egg per person. Plate chilaquiles, top with chopped avocado and a fried egg.
While you are doing all this, your dining partner(s) should be setting the table and maybe making a green salad to have alongside.
This was very satisfying and did I mention fast? The chips become almost potato gratin-like; they don't get goopy or slimy or anything horrible. Each bite has some crunch from the onion, a richness from the chips, avocado or egg, and some acidic brightness from the salsa. This dish will be made again. Maybe with a green salsa next time?
as this is just an update.
First, it did not take six hours. It took a little over four hours. Perfect for a weeknight. Ha!
The only brisket I could find at my supermarket was 2 1/2 pounds and the recipe called for a 4-5 pound brisket. I followed the recipe pretty much as it was outlined. I halved the amount of dry rub I made (due to the smaller roast) and used the foil shield the recipe recommended because we were cooking on a gas grill. Liberal use of wood chips kept everything nice and smoky throughout.
We ate the brisket with potato salad, pickles, and sliced tomatoes. It was quite good. We didn't get the nice crust on the meat because I was too hungry to leave the meat in the oven (yes, the recipe uses the oven and the grill) to crust up.
Leftovers were eaten at the East Coast Classic (go Cadets!) in wrap sandwiches with sliced cucumber, cheese and tomato.
Monday, July 9, 2007
This is muhammara (or muhummara). It is a roasted red pepper dip/spread/sauce made with walnuts and garlic. I followed the recipe at 101 Cookbooks as closely as I could (I had no whole-grain breadcrumbs).
It is everything I love in a dish like this: it goes with multiple flavors, its color is beautiful and it is remarkably easy to make (especially if you cheat and use store-bought roasted red peppers).
In the last few days, we've eaten it with pita as a dip, alongside a quinoa salad with grilled vegetables, over grilled chicken and with grilled tofu. It's definitely a permanent addition to my dip/spread/sauce repertoire - you should add it to yours too.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
If you still trust the folks at NOAA, we are due for a hot, humid week. Therefore, 4 out of 5 meals will use the grill (reminder: check the propane level in the grill tank today!). The only "inside job" is South of the Border inspired, and folks in Mexico know from hot.
To inspire you in your grilling efforts this week, here's a shot of the impressively smoky grill that we cooked on this weekend. (I love my gas grill, BTW.)
I thought I'd try something a little different for the next few weeks: First, I'll tell you what I'm up to on Sunday and then give you the whole week's menu. Let me know what you think.
What I did this Sunday:
- Baked granola. I make my own granola every month. Dave and I eat if for breakfast every weekday. It's easy to make and I always feel like I've accomplished something great when I have a few pans of it cooling on the counter.
- Made pizza dough. The dough is the one from this post. I like it a lot and it freezes really well. I made a double batch (enough for four large pizzas) and froze it all. On Friday morning, I'll pull one piece out of the freezer and thaw it out on the counter for dinner that night. I am trying a different method this week: grilling the pizzas - stay tuned.
- Made muhammara. This is a delicious recipe courtesy of 101 Cookbooks. I made it with Pastene brand roasted red peppers instead of roasting my own.
- Made galette dough. I used some of this in the peach tart for dessert tonight. The rest went in the freezer for a future savory or sweet treat.
- Made dinner. I made the Puffy Tacos with Beef as described over at Homesick Texan. I prepared the full amount of beef, but only half the amount of taco shells. We'll eat the leftover beef in a taco salad for lunch with corn chips (the shells wouldn't hold well for two days). For dessert, a peach tart.
Menu - Week of July 8
Puffy Tacos with Ground Beef
Zucchini "Carpaccio" Salad
Peach Tart with Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
Tofu Kebabs with Muhammara
Grilled Halloumi (cheese) and Vegetables (you'll notice this is a repeat from last week - we never ate this dish last week, so it's back in the lineup)
Rice Noodle Salad with Grilled Pork
Chilaquiles (from Twist of the Wrist)
We had a technical issue which caused the picture of the cooked pork to be very blurry, so you get an action shot of me slicing the tenderloins instead.
The portions below are to feed four as part of a meal. Any leftover meat is great in a banh mi sandwich.
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2" slice ginger, peeled
- 2 teaspoons lime zest
- 1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or turbinado or demerara sugar)
- 1 tablespoon Thai red-curry paste (you can get this in small jars at the supermarket - I use Thai Kitchen brand)
- 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
Rub the paste over the tenderloin and leave to marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours. (I throw everything in a gallon-sized ziploc for ease of cleanup and to ensure that the meat is entirely covered in the paste mixture.) While the meat marinates, makes your lettuce packets (below).
Light your grill. Grill the tenderloin until cooked through. On a hot gas grill, this takes 4-5 minutes a side. On yesterday's slow, smoky charcoal fire, this took close to half an hour (but happily resulted in very juicy meat).
Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes, then slice the tenderloin on the bias into thin slices. To get smaller pieces of pork, you may want to halve the tenderloin the long way if it's very thick.
Lettuce Roll-Up Packets
This is more of an guide than a recipe. You take lettuce leaves that are about 4x5" and then you layer various ingredients in them. This can all be done at table as people are eating - but since I made this for a buffet, I put all the ingredients together into pre-made roll-up bites.
For each person, lay out on a platter:
- 4-5 lettuce leaves (Boston lettuce is good for this)
- 1 ounce of rice vermicelli (first, pour boiling water of the dry rice noodles, let them soak for 5 minutes or so, rinse with cold water and then drain)
- several sprigs of mint and cilantro
- 1/2 carrot, julienned
- 10 or so chives, cut into long batons
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- juice of one lime
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar (to your taste)
- 1-2 tablespoons water
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- pinch hot pepper flakes
Monday, July 2, 2007
In this method, you make little gyro-meatball-patties and pan fry them. The recipe was a lot like the method I use for keftedes (Greek meatballs), except CI used a lot more bread than I would have.
The results were quite good. Instead of stuffing everything into pita bread, I served the whole kitandkaboodle plated as a DIY sandwich making plate. (We were joking that this picture looked a little like a shot from The House of Apollo Menu Specials page - hey you get the point though. Yasou!)
I made the lamb patties on Sunday and fried them up to order on Monday. While they were cooking, I made the tzaziki (garlic yogurt sauce) and set up the plates with feta, tomatoes, olives and salad.
Gyros (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
- most of a piece of pita bread or 2 slices of bread, torn into pieces
- 1 large shallot, rough chopped
- 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
- big squeeze of lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
- salt and pepper
- 1 pound ground lamb
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties about 4 minutes per side. You want them deeply browned and cooked all the way through. Drain on paper towels and serve.
Depending on how many garnishes you use, this will serve 3-4 people.
- slices of feta cheese
- tomato wedges
- Kalamata olives
- pita bread
- salad dressed with a super lemony dressing (lemon juice and oil in a 1:3 ratio, Greek oregano, salt and pepper)
- tzaziki (stir together 1 cup full fat yogurt, 1 seeded and diced cucumber, 1 pressed clove of garlic, handful chopped mint and dill, salt to taste)
The Vanilla Frozen Yogurt was really the star (it's in the 3:00 position in the picture). It took no effort at all to make. You whisk together yogurt, sugar and vanilla. Chill and freeze. That simple. Phenomenally good. I used Stonyfield Farm whole milk yogurt.
Also extremely good, but requiring a little more effort was the Honey Lavender Ice Cream. You steep lavender blossoms in honey and strain. Make a custard with yolks, milk and a little sugar. Add the honey and cream.
The Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet is also great. You cook rhubarb with a little sugar and then puree it with ripe strawberries. Done.
Now come the really easy part: eating all this ice cream! Everything is wonderful solo; you can really taste each flavor's nuances. But, if I was going to be combining flavors ... the sorbet and yogurt are almost better when eaten together. The honey ice cream eaten with the yogurt reminds me of yogurt drizzled with honey. The only not-so-great pairing was the sorbet with the honey ice cream. The sorbet's bright flavors clobbered the honey flavors over the head.
Go buy yourself a copy of the book and get freezing!
Sunday, July 1, 2007
When I wasn't engaged in this semi-OCD effort to make frozen treats, I was also planning the rest of the week. We'll be home on Wednesday for the holiday, so the brisket we're making is not a quick-fix AT ALL (freakin' Cook's Illustrated always does this to me. Six hours of cook time. We'll see. Remember the seven-hour baked beans?)
An * says I made this on Sunday. Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner two nights prior.
Grilled chicken with pesto*
Gyros* (from the July August issue of Cook's Illustrated) with tomato and feta (made the patties on Sunday)
Indian night (thanks Smitten Kitchen for the inspiration)
Black-eyed pea dal*
Cabbage* slaw (grated cabbage on Sunday)
Happy Fourth of July!
Grilled halloumi cheese, peppers and zucchini
Quinoa w/ grilled lemon vinaigrette
This is a Smoggy Sazerac (our invention, thank you very much). As it usually is with most rather delicious things, this drink came about by accident and happenstance. The thing that makes this "smoggy" is that instead of swirling the glass with Pernod, the Pernod is left in. This makes the Pernod go smoky (or since it's green, "smoggy"). The drink is a little more anise-y than a traditional sazerac as a result.
Measure using your shot glass or jigger into a shaker filled with ice:
- 1/4 shot pastis (Pernod, Ricard)
- 1/2 tsp superfine sugar
- 1/4 shot water
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- 2 shots rye