Saturday, September 27, 2014

Penne with Zucchini, Salami, and Cream

Friday 26 September
Ah, the Friday pasta.  A quick and satisfying standard.

Campanelle e Calamari

Thursday 25 September
Two things we have plenty of: fresh basil, and frozen squid.  This recipe used both, plus some cherry tomatoes from our own vine.
We scanted the pasta to six ounces, as there were so many other things going into it, and used dried peperoncini, as we had no fresh chile.  And since our defrosted squid gave off lots of liquid while it cooked, we drained it before adding just a little wine, but no pasta water. 

Though I wondered whether raisins would work with bland squid as well as they do in sarde in saor, they played together quite nicely.  And the capers nestled into the campanelle as if they were little anthers.  But as some of the reviewers comment, the dish could have used a little zip from something; maybe more or juicier tomatoes, some lemon juice, or a drizzle of fruity oil. 

Tuna Steaks with Aïoli and Provençal Vegetables

Wednesday 24 September
We got out a pair of TJ's albacore steaks, a couple of zucchini, a yellow squash, and an orange pepper, to grill up an approximation of this.
We liked the idea of tossing the vegetables with oil and herbes de provence, but we're not going to use dried herbs when the ones in the garden are crawling up the steps and trying to get into the house.  So we chopped up fresh savory, thyme, and basil, tossed with the grilled vedge, and doused with basil oil.

Of course, Holt wanted to make his aïoli from scratch; but his usually dependable robot-coupe method didn't work this time, as he was trying to spin up only the yolk of one egg, and the blade couldn't get to the bottom of it.  It was ruined, and as we only later discovered these instructions for aïoli rescue via whisk, we surrendered to the easy, rather than the seemingly impossible, aïoli.

Spicy Beef with Tricolor Peppers

Tuesday 23 September
This was the first day of fall, though you wouldn't know if from the weather.  We had three peppers the color of autumn leaves (notionally - the ones on the trees outside are still green), bright red, orange, and yellow, so we combined them into a flavorsome stir-fry, inspired by this.
We got our mise together, making some basic changes to the recipe (which you can see on the i-pad, a vital part of the mise).  
Sliced the chuck steak paper-thin, so it'd be more tender than it was last time; left out the cornstarch; sliced up a combination of red and white onions, as we were out of scallions; used black bean and garlic sauce (which we already had) instead of chile and garlic sauce; and as always, stir-fried the vegetables first, as we find them more forgiving than the meat. 
The combination of ketchup, hoisin, and garlic sauce is more typically Chinese than you'd think, and made a rich, spicy finishing sauce for the dish.

Broiled Eggplant Parmigiana

Monday 22 September
About a week ago, we made a gratin out of our haul of farmers' market eggplants and tomatoes.  We said then that we had an idea for a quicker method of getting the same (or a better) effect from the same ingredients, so today we got some more eggplant and tomatoes, and actually did it; and it only took a little over an hour from peel to plate.

Eggplant Parmigiana Rounds
Large (2+ pound) eggplant, peeled and sliced into 3/4" thick rounds
olive oil
salt and pepper
ca. 4 oz. melty cheese, grated (ours was fontina, but mozzarella or scamorza would be great)
handful of basil, torn up
2 big tomatoes, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
ca. 3 oz. graty cheese, grated (ours was romano, but asiago, grana or parmesan would be - grate)
ca. 2 oz. breadcrumbs
Line a baking tray with parchment paper brushed with oil.  Arrange rounds of eggplant on tray and brush the tops with oil seasoned with salt and pepper.  Broil at 450º for ca. 8 minutes until golden; flip, brush with more seasoned oil, and broil 8 minutes more until golden.  Turn off broiler, and reset oven to 350º.
Top each round with melty cheese, then torn up basil, then a matching slice of tomato.
Mix grating cheese with breadcrumbs, and season with salt and pepper.  Pat the mixture on top of each tomato round. 
Put the tray back in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until warmed through.  If necessary, turn on the broiler for a minute more until tops are melty and crisp.

In our humble opinion, this is far easier, quicker, and tastier than the other recipes we've seen.  So if you don't have all day to make Karen's Nanny's eggplant parmigiana, this is your next best option.


Pork with Fennel

Sunday 21 September
There are so many herbs trying to overgrow each other out in the garden that we have a hard time deciding which ones to use next.  
The fact that we had some thick cuts off a pork tenderloin inspired us to choose two: we patted them with thyme leaves, and crisped some sage leaves in oil and butter to top them off.  (The medallions themselves pan-fried in the sage-flavored oil, which only added to their savoriness). 

As a side dish, we sliced up a big fennel bulb and braised it in butter and wine.  Pork and fennel are BFFs.

Thai Seafood Curry

Saturday 20 September
Barbara sowed about 50 seeds of Thai basil in the garden this July, and two plants actually germinated.  As we always have our handy container of Mae Ploy green curry paste in the fridge, we chose this recipe to combine the two.
Instead of shrimp, we used one of the pound bags of frozen squid we got at Kroger.  The mussels were from Luken's in Findlay Market, because they pick them over carefully before giving them to you, and there wasn't a bad one in the bunch.

Some people who reviewed this recipe said it was bland.  They couldn't be using Mae Ploy brand curry, because we scanted the measure a bit, and it was nicely eye-watering, though not quite at the level of Malaysian Death Sauce.  And next time we'll add the basil and cilantro (also growing nicely in the recent cool weather) at the very end, when it goes into the bowls and can preserve a little of its green flavor uncooked.

Still, a fragrant, spicy Saturday night meal that will either cure your sniffles, or cause them.