Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the Road

Back soon. New posts to come this weekend: coconut cupcakes, adventures with orgeat, and crunchy crackers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Happy National Pie Day!

All you need to know about this holiday is here. (I mean, who knew there was an American Pie Council?)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Week of January 20

Sorry everyone. It's amazing how busy you can be when you're (voluntarily) unemployed.

Over the weekend we went to Super 88 in Allston, MA (Boston, really). Super 88 (or "Route 66" as my friend Ann calls it) is a marvelous Asian supermarket. They sell pretty much everything you need for Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cookery. They have some Japanese ingredients as well, but that cuisine is not their speciality. I love going there because they have really interesting produce and I can always pick up something of interest.

These lovely pea shoots were part of dinner on Sunday. We also got several huge bunches of watercress (for 99 cents each!) and some ridiculously buggy mustard greens (Seriously buggy. I had to commit them to the compost heap: we could not "debug" them sufficiently and we both got rather squicked out. Ah well.).

Menu for the Week
Indian-spiced chicken breasts
Sri Lankan-style pea tendrils with coconut
Moon dal with chickpeas
Brown rice

Watercress and potato soup
Goat cheese toasts

Pork tenderloin with apples
Roasted red potatoes
Roasted brussel sprouts

Mushroom quiche
Green salad

Chili (Rein's Deli - from the freezer)

Buffalo shrimp po'boys with blue cheese dressing
Three Cs: Celery, carrot and cucumber sticks

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Drink of the Week: Hendrick's Martini

Hendrick's bills itself as a "peculiar" gin. It is a Scottish gin and in addition to the botanicals you'd expect to find in gin (juniper, yes) is also has infusions of rose and cucumber added during distillation. It's a delicious, ruinously expensive gin and (in my opinion) must be enjoyed in drinks where its flavor can shine.

Hendrick's Martini
Stir together in an iced mixing glass:
  • 3 oz. Hendrick's gin
  • 1 oz. Noilly Prat white vermouth (trust us)
When cold, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist or a slice of cucumber.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Great Molasses Disaster of 1919

On January 15, 1919, an enormous tank of molasses, destined for distillation into industrial alcohol, exploded. The tank was located in Boston North End, an industrial and densely populated part of town (mostly the home of new immigrants to Boston). The Great Molasses Disaster, as it became known, resulted in the deaths of 21 people and hundreds of injuries.

There are several websites with great photos of the tank and the chaos created by the explosion and resulting wave of molasses.
This does sound sort of funny, I mean, a huge wave of molasses? This was a wall of molasses: two million gallons of sticky liquid exploded out of their tank, creating a shock wave and tsunami of gook that were strong enough to knock an elevated train trestle over, move trucks down the street and knock down buildings. As Eric Postpischil says: "It was like any horrible disaster scene, with the addition that everything was covered in smelly, sticky, brown molasses."

The owner of the tank, U.S. Industrial Alcohol, tried to blame the explosion on "anarchists." The real cause was that the tank was poorly constructed and people had been warning the company about potential problems since its construction. (Another factoid for you: the resulting lawsuit, filed against US Industrial Alcohol, was the first class action lawsuit in the U.S.)

What does foodie do when faced with this day in history? Prepare a bunch of dishes which contain molasses as an ingredient of course!

We are starting our evening off with a rum-based cocktail (traditionally rum is distilled from molasses). For dinner, the no-brainer was baked beans: Boston baked beans, of course. We also will be eating pork ribs that have been basted with molasses and sprinkled with mustard seeds. For dessert, I'll be serving molasses candy sprinkled over pumpkin pie ice cream.

Just for giggles, I also baked a few loaves of Anadama bread.

So have some molasses tonight and honor the memories of those whose perished in this horrible industrial accident.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Week of January 13

As we brace for yet another snowstorm, it's only logical that I want to load the menu with warming comfort foods. I'm also trying to focus on making these foods taste delicious while keeping them light. (But I am NOT going to hide broccoli in my gingerbread ...)

This week is also the anniversary of the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. I'll be posting more about this on Tuesday, but in the meantime that jar of molasses is requiring a lot of my attention.

Week of January 13
Butternut squash lasagne
Sauteed broccoli with lemon and pine nuts

Shepherd's pie
Green salad

Great Molasses Flood Memorial Dinner
Molasses-glazed pork ribs, baked with sauerkraut
Molasses baked beans

Chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese and cherries
Green beans with toasted almonds

Chirashi sushi
Cucumber salad

Macaroni and cheese

Drink of the Week: Alaska

Continuing down the Charteuse path (the yellow brick road's more exciting sibling), the Alaska is another Chartreuse drink. This one uses yellow Chartreuse (last seen in The Last Word). We were introduced to the Alaska by Bob over at the Eastern Standard Kitchen and were thrilled to find that we actually already had all the ingredients for this drink in our liquor cabinet.


In a mixing glass over ice stir together:
  • 2 ounces gin (we use Plymouth)
  • 1 ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 2 dashes orange bitters (Regan's or Fee Brothers)
Serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Warm Salad with Shrimp

This a post from my other blog, The Cookbook Challenge. This recipe fits the Cooking 4 the Week philosophy though so I wanted to make sure you got to see it too.

Biba's Taste of Italy: Recipes form the Homes, Trattorie & Restaurants of Emilia-Romagna by Biba Caggiano, copyright 2001
Warm Salad of Shrimp, Radicchio, Arugula and Balsamic Vinegar, page 44

The title of this book: Biba's Taste of Italy is a little misleading. This is really Biba's Taste of Emilia-Romagna. You will not be disappointed by this cookbook. Emilia-Romagna is the source of so many wonderful foodstuffs and dishes, there is something for everyone. Seafood from the coast? Linguine alla Bolognese (otherwise known as bolognese sauce)? Vegetables? Desserts? Check, check and check.

This recipe is a great example of how an interesting recipe doesn't have to be difficult. Wash greens, saute shrimp, make dressing, serve. We had this as an appetizer. To make this an entree salad, just double the amount of shrimp.

Warm Salad of Shrimp, Radicchio, Arugula and Balsamic Vinegar

  • 1/2 head radicchio, torn into bite-sized pieces, washed and dried
  • 3 cups arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces, washed and dried
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 medium shrimp (about 1/2 pound), shelled, deveined and dried
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Toss the radicchio and arugula together and arrange them on four salad plates.

In a skillet large enough to hold the shrimp in one layer, saute the shrimp in the olive oil. When the shrimp has started to color, pour the balsamic vinegar and wine over the shrimp and add a pinch of salt (the liquid will sputter and spit, be careful). Cook another 2-3 minutes, until the shrimp is cooked and the liquid is reduced by half. (If the shrimp finish faster than the reduction, remove them so they don't overcook.)

Remove the shrimp from the pan and arrange them over the greens. Pour the contents of the skillet over the salad plates. Serve.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Week of January 6

Being home and not working a nine-to-five job has resulted in some nice changes to my schedule. I went shopping on Friday this week (as opposed to the Saturday or Sunday shop I usually do). I don't think I have ever had such a nice time at the supermarket: plenty of parking, no one in the store, no lines at the registers. Wow. Weekday grocery shopping is great.

Per one of my earlier posts, I am gearing up to master Resolution #8: Cooking one recipe from each of my cookbooks. I've set up a separate blog to track recipe completion. You can get to it here or via the Cookbook Challenge link in the sidebar. I'll be noting Cookbook Challenge recipes with a "CC".

On Sunday, I:
  • Braised leeks.
  • Baked beets.
  • Boiled up (simmered really) some beans for minestrone.
  • Made Sunday dinner.
Week of January 6
Warm shrimp, arugula and radicchio salad with balsamic vinegar (CC)
Tortellini in brodo (CC)
Torta della Befana (CC)

Alice Water’s winter minestrone (CC)
Cheese toasts

Chicken souvlaki on pita
Greek cherry tomato salad

Fettuccine with mushroom ragout
Beet salad with horseradish

Leek, anchovy & egg sandwiches (CC)
Green salad

Pizza night

Friday, January 4, 2008

Drink of the Week: The Last Word

The Chartreuse explorations continue. The Last Word is made with yellow Chartreuse as opposed to the luscious Hague Cocktail which was made with green Chartreuse.

The Last Word is a little sweet, a little sour, and just strong enough for a Friday night. The proportions are simple: equal amounts gin, yellow Chartreuse, lime juice and maraschino liqueur.

The Last Word
  • 1/2 ounce gin (I used Beefeater)
  • 1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur (I used Luxardo)
  • 1/2 lime juice
Shake together in an iced shaker. Strain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

Baked Millet

Wow. Do I know how to write catchy blog post headers or what? I do apologize, but the original name was too cute for me.

This what my version of Mark Bittman's Autumn Millet Bake (See? Cute.) I harbor no ill -will toward Mr. Bittman. His Minimalist column in the NY Times is a weekly must-read. He's a calm, reassuring voice in the my kitchen and his recipes work. Do yourself a favor and check out his column if you aren't a regular reader.

This recipe is from his new book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has a lovely post about it. I liked the idea of this recipe and thought it might make a really easy side dish. I ended up making a version that was rather unexciting compared to the original, but it was great for dinner tonight served with roasted green beans and fried haloumi cheese.

Go to Heidi's post for the original recipe and her helpful tips. I think this would be fabulous with tomatoes and zucchini with some feta sprinkled over the top at the end. Or puttanesca-style with tomato, black olives, capers and anchovy.

Tonight's version wasn't really exciting, but it was a great, easy method for millet (I could have made it more interesting by going middle-eastern by adding raisins and a little toasted cumin seed). The millet was cooked through perfectly and it was a very hands-off preparation. Here's what I ended up with.

A Pretty Tasty but Not So Exciting Baked Millet Dish
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup millet
  • 1 cup chicken broth (may need 1/4 cup more), warmed (should not be refrigerator cold)
  • 3 cups of cubed butternut squash (3/4" pieces)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of piment espellette (or hot pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (chopped or halved)
Heat the oven to 375.

Toast the millet in a skillet with the olive oil. This should take about 5 minutes: the millet will not get very brown but will start to smell nutty. Put the millet into an oiled 9"x13" baking dish (It will look like there is nothing there - trust the millet. It will fluff up a lot.).

Top the millet with the squash. Season with salt, pepper and the hot pepper. Pour the broth over everything. Cover the pan with foil and put it in the heated oven for about 45 minutes.

Peel the foil back and taste the millet. If it's still crunchy, add up to another 1/4 cup of broth. Toss the pistachios over the top and put the uncovered pan back into the oven. Raise the temp to 400 degrees and let it bake for another 10 minutes.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

For 2008: Eight Kitchen Resolutions

What are your resolutions for 2008?

I have never been one for resolutions. Some years I spend a few days writing a list of resolutions and then alternate between ignoring them or feeling guilty about ignoring them.

I thought I'd try something different and have produced a list of Kitchen Resolutions for 2008. Some of these items are challenging recipes or techniques. One is an area of skill improvement. One is more housekeeping than anything else. The final one is probably the most challenging, as you'll see ...

Resolution 1: Chinese Soup Dumplings
Soup dumplings are a marvel: a thin dumpling skin (similar to a wonton skin) encasing a hot, flavorful broth. Each is a rich, warming mouthful.

I have read a number of techniques and they don't seem hard to make, just fussy. However, the whole idea of them is fascinating and I can't wait to try to make them. I am also curious to see if I can use the same method with different types of soup and stew. Potato and leek soup dumplings anyone?

Resolution 2: Nancy Silverton's Sourdough Starter
Have you seen this method? Chef Silverton's starter is legendary. It's local: produced in your kitchen, using your local yeasts and the yeasts found on a bunch of grapes (okay, so that part may not be local). It's flavorful: breads made with it are supposed to have a depth of flavor not found in most breads. And, it's insanely fussy: it takes over 10 days to get the starter going and then you have to care and feed for your starter forever after.

I have tried to get this starter going before and haven't ever succeeded. Back up the hill this year ...

Resolution 3: Roast Beef
Cut me a little slack, but after those first two I needed something a little easier. Fact of the matter is I have never prepared a roast beef before. This is mostly because I don't tend to entertain large groups very often. When we do, a good old fashioned roast beef just never seems to fit the bill. However, I feel like this is a major gap in my culinary repertoire and I am looking forward to getting it right: beefy, juicy and delicious.

Resolution 4: Produce an Aged Cheddar
I love cheesemaking. I have limited my cheesemaking to fresh cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, feta and chevre. I'd like to take this to the next level by aging a cheese. I have selected a cheddar as my first effort. I'll be able to source my cultures from the New England Cheesemaking Company (a great source - try their 30-minute Mozzarella Kit).

Resolution 5: Brew a Batch of Root Beer

Ever since I read an article in Saveur about craft root beers I have been thinking about brewing a batch. I love ginger beer and root beer and birch beer and am looking forward to producing a homebrewed version of my own.

Resolution 6: Improve My Knife Skills
Like most self-taught cooks, I pretty much do what feels logical in the kitchen. My knife skills are pretty much built on what I've learned on my own. I can get done what needs be done while I'm cooking, but I know that I could be better, faster and more accurate in my technique.

Resolution 7: Freezer Management
'Nuff said.

Resolution 8: The Cookbook Challenge
I am going to make one recipe from each cookbook in my library. Woof. I have a lot of cookbooks (this is about half of my collection, not including magazines and "clippings" from the internet). I figure I'll rediscover some old favorites and stretch my boundaries a little. I should also end up with a catalog of just what I have on the bookshelf. Hopefully I'll make it through them all.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

A gracious welcome to 2008.

Every culture has a New Year's Day food tradition. Many of them are similar in spirit if not in ingredients. A common tradition, and one I heartily endorse, is the eating of lentils (preferably with something porky). The shape of lentils is similar to that of coins (well it is if you squint and suspend disbelief for a moment) and therefore eating them on New Year's Day should lead to a prosperous New Year. They taste good too.

This is the lentil dish we ate for lunch today. In addition to the lentils, it includes sauteed chorizo "coins", shallots and garlic. We ate it with a salad of radicchio and parsley and a whole wheat baguette spread with St. Andre cheese.

New Year Lentils
  • 1 cup lentils (lentilles du Puy please)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup sliced chorizo (I used hard chorizo, but a soft chorizo or another cured pork product can be used)
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
Rinse the lentils and put them into a 2-3 quart saucepan. Cover with water by 2 inches, toss in the bay leaf, a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Simmer the lentils under tender (taste one or two to see). Check on them occasionally to make sure they are covered with water, adding more if they get too dry. Depending on the age of your lentils, this could take anywhere from 25 to 50 minutes.

Drain the lentils in a colander or strainer and transfer to a bowl (they do not have to be bone-dry, it's ok to leave them a little damp). Discard the bay leaf.

In a dry skillet, saute the chorizo over medium high heat until it just starts to crisp. Add the shallots to the pan and saute in the fat given off by the chorizo (add some olive oil to the pan if your sausage doesn't render enough fat). After the shallots start to soften (about 5 minutes) , add in the garlic. Saute for another minute and then add the contents of the skillet to the bowl with the lentils (if there's a lot of fat in pan you may want to spoon some of it off first).

Make a quick dressing by whisking the mustard, vinegar and olive oil together. Pour it over the lentil mixture and toss gently. Taste for salt, acid (vinegar) and oil and add more of whatever is needed.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4 as part of a meal.

Fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley or savory would be great in this.
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