Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tilapia with Mushrooms and Cream/Fries and Hamburger

Tuesday 25 March

H: The TJ's tilapia fillets come individually wrapped which makes it convenient for the lonely guy. Did them half meunière, half bonne femme ( . . . me manque). So sautéed some mushrooms and shallots in butter, with a little thyme. Removed to a heated plate. Then tossed the sturdy little fish in seasoned flour. Removed to same plate. Deglazed with wine, added a mess of cream. Cooked down, returned the shrooms (almost no juice). Poured on the side of said fish (no I did not "nap" it).
Julia suggested tarragon, so that gave me an envie for the next night.

B: Yes, in that order. We went out with a colleague of Kathy's, Andrea, to Olivia, and had a very happy hour showing slides of Caesarea and snacking on rosemary fries with gorgonzola sauce. There was some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to help it along. And afterwards, we went over to Jeff's and I fried myself a hamburger, which I ate with ketchup. An interesting dispersal of the usual assemblage.

Pasta al salmone/Dinner for Ehud

Monday 24 March

H: I'll make a Saffi in a day or two, to keep the cosmic balance.

B: Ehud gave an AMAZING talk here at Cornell, about his find of Herod's Tomb at Herodion. I can't give away the details before the big National Geographic spread comes out - you'll just have to wait with bated breath.

After the talk, we went out with a lively party from the Near Eastern Department, for dinner to the Taverna Banfi. Despite the odd Italo-Greek name, it's the restaurant at the on-campus Statler Hotel, run by the Cornell Hotel School. The staff, cute kids all, are Hotel School students; I assume they have some guidance, especially if they cook in the kitchen. As Kathy knew we would be a large group, she had arranged for a couple of (mainly kosher) choices. So we were greeted with individual "Ehud Netzer" menus - one of the benefits of easy computer printing.

We started with an antipasto platter of olives, peperoncini, marinated artichokes, asparagus, and a few fettunte (okay, plain bruschette). There was also a softer bread for dipping into oil and balsamic vinegar, plus more olives and sprinkles of parmesan for some purpose or other.

Our wine was a Hermann J. Wiemer riesling from right here in the Finger Lakes. It's one of those not-too-sweet rieslings that goes very well with creamy food (see soup below).

I had the Tuscan mushroom soup, which was a rich, tasty, but not particularly Tuscan bisque. There was a bit of a kashrut scare when our server said it would be topped with oysters, but she meant mushrooms - and they weren't there anyway.

My meat course was duck two ways: breast and confit leg with golden raisins. Very nicely done, especially the juicy breast, which was just au point. The scattering of grilled vegetables was fine as well.

I ended up glad that they were out of the on-menu dessert, amaretto crème caramel; because I was able to substitute a much more interesting white chocolate mascarpone parfait, made with berries and crushed amaretti. A good end to a fine dinner, after a wonderful talk.

Lamb chops/Mediterranean Whitefish with Rosemary Vegetables

Easter Sunday, 23 March

H: We follow the sect of Ali ben Buddha ("All is kosher in Ali ben Buddha") and celebrate all of the feasts and none of the fasts. Easter is thus a pretty big deal and so is Orthodox Easter, Passover, St. Swithin's Day, the Birthday of the Báb (damn, we forgot to get him anything this year) and any other excuse we can lay our hands on.
So I roasted some asparagus in the oven (500º), and pulled them out. While they were cooling a bit, tossed in the last of the fingerling potatoes. Wrapped the geese in prosciutto. Then 4 lovely lamb chops (from the fish place. . . go figure) went into the pan, about 3 minutes on each side. Joy had a great sauce: sautéed shallots in the fat, deglaze with a splash of white wine and orange juice! plus some rosemary. Just delicious. Plus a slice of Kathy's apple cake for ecumenical dessert.

B: Apparently the Pope has now placed limits on Easter falling this early; certainly anyone wearing a fancy flowered hat instead of a sensible "toque" had her ears frostbitten today. Noah enjoyed an Easter basket brimming with chocolate bunnies and peeps, but Barbara and Ehud had their doubts about the hot cross buns - was eating one like being christened?

As the larder was basically bare, we were lucky that the P&C grocery store was not just open, but actually had a sale on fresh whitefish fillets - we got two nice big ones, suitable for Ehud, Kathy and Barbara, or the only people who would eat fish (the unnamable others had chicken sandwiches, the softies).

Whitefish is fairly bland, so the preparation needed some spice. The inspiration came from our recipe for tilapia fillets with wasabi mayonnaise.
In this case, the mayonnaise was loosened with oil and liberally seasoned with Italian spices and garlic salt, both of which Jeff had in the spice rack. Barbara spread this on one side of each (skinless) fillet, sprinkled on some fresh breadcrumbs she'd just ground up out of yesterday's rosemary bread, and patted them down. The fillets then were flipped, breaded side down, on a foil-covered baking pan, and the top surfaces thus exposed were themselves spread with mayonnaise mixture and crumbed. Then the panful went into a 400-degree oven for about 10-12 minutes. When the fillets were just done (flaked in the thickest part, but were still moist), the broiler went on for a minute or three to brown the top crumbs - no need for flipping. Results: moist, flavorful fish with crispy crumbs on top.

Ehud is the vegetable king, so he sautéed up some chopped onion, then steamed it up with chopped baby carrots, Yukon gold potatoes, and asparagus, liberally seasoned with rosemary and salt. A savory stew.

We forgot to get any wine before all the liquor stores closed for Easter, so we had beer from the local Ithaca brewery instead: nice hoppy Cascazilla red ale (for all the Godzilla movies we've been watching), and smoky porter in a "growler," or big bottle. It's a good thing that Jeff buys his beer in bulk. And the porter actually went very well with Easter chocolates for dessert.

Tortilla/Vegetable Soup and Grilled Chicken

Saturday 22 March

H: The real (or do I mean reál ?) tortilla española and not what we mean by a tortilla in NM, but a potato fry up (see below on "frahs"), I still had one nice chorizo, so a "little cake" was the very thing for a cold Saturday.
Fino's recipe was the sort of basis, except not at all, since it called for slicing the potatoes in 1 cm. rounds, then frying in an inch of olive oil, and breaking them up with the back of spoon, until they form a "dark brown mush," which is not only not appetizing, but makes the home cook, i.e. me, wonder what was the point of slicing them into 1 cm. rounds in the first freaking place. You're then supposed to leave the cake "runny" in the middle. We'll have to order one in Fino, when next we get to London, but in the meanwhile, authenticity yields to what I like to think of as common sense. So a compromise between Fino and New Joy, which in its own quiet multicultural way, is probably the greatest force for liberal progress and tolerance in America, as well as our most pleasant indicator of progress.
So three steps to a tortilla, Spanish style.
1. Slice up a bunch of onions, and slowly caramelized them in olive oil. Pour into a mixing bowl.
2. Fry up the chorizo, and pick it out into the same bowl, leaving lovely chorizo flavored oil.
3. Slice up a bunch of potatoes into rounds and shallow fry them in the olive oil (getting the idea that olive oil is the thing here?). Flip them from time to time. Don’t worry if a few stick together. Try for a nice deep brown but not necessarily potato chip crispiness.
4. Break an egg in to the onion-chorizo mix. Add the potatoes once coolish.
5. Frah.
6. Flip. Invert on plate and dump back in. (Or next time I'll try just running it under the broiler, as per frittata).
I have no idea how authentic it was, having never had one in Spain (or London), nor was Barbara there to provide eye-witness testimony. It was dam' good though, and I'm sure some madre in some pueblo makes it exactly like that. Of course, she is probably widely despised in said pueblo as a inauthentic cook and not allowed to contribute her tortillas to the school bake sale.

B: We gathered for dinner with Jeff and Noah. The first course was Ehud's home-made vegetable soup. He started with chopped onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil, then added the medley of available vegetables (chopped carrot, potato, asparagus, a few little tomatoes, and parsley) and enough water to make it soupy, seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and let it simmer for about a half hour until everything was tender and the flavors melded. A true taste of Midbar Sinai.

The meat course was Jeff's grilled chicken breasts. He used the Mediterranean marinade from Wegman's, and being unmoved by the freezing Ithacan climate, grilled them outdoors. They were moist and flavorful. Served on the side was a nice Italian-style bread seasoned with rosemary.

Dessert was pumpkin pie, which suited the fall-like temperature, though tomorrow is Easter.

Dinner at Julie's/Olivia, Ithaca

Friday 21 March
H: Good Friday and Purim (or "Hide in the Basement" as it was known in the shtetl).
Feeling somewhat desperate, I invited myself over to Julie's for dinner. She was kind enough to throw together a bash of Kathy (sans Russel, alas), her sister Monica (who besides putting together these huge trade fairs, had spent a year on the SS Norway—the old SS France—as Entertainment Director, sailing around the Caribbean and staging shows, which sounds close to godzone job) and her dad, who had been a SeaBee in the war. We had a great time nattering about everything (including politics, religion, and sex) over a fine figure of a spinach lasagna, chicken bosoms baked with mushroom, and a palate-clearing salad. Kathy, in honor of Purim, brought a wonderfully moist "Jewish Apple Cake"—not so much Jew, as Jewish, since it was made with oil (not butter) and parve for all occasions (well, except Passover, when things get weird).
Holt discovered yet another reason to miss Barbara, in that he had to moderate his alcohol consumption, since he was driving home alone. The word "sip" rather than "swig" took on new significance.

B: After a day of brainstorming, Ehud took Kathy and Barbara out to dinner at Olivia in Ithaca.

Olivia is nice because it's close to Kathy's house, it makes a point of serving locally-produced foods, and has usable wifi (UNLIKE CORNELL UNIVERSITY). It's not so nice because it offers tip calculations of 18, 20, and 22% on the check; service was okay, but not better than 15% okay.

Barbara ordered a starter of skewered grilled (and slightly burnt) shrimp, propped on one nice (unburnt) scallop in a pool of smooth white bean purée with swirls of red pepper sauce. To keep with the local theme, we had Standing Stone Vidal, from Seneca Lake.

Her main course was local beefsteak (quite flavorful, though it should have been trimmed better) with chive butter, a heap of rosemary french fries, and grilled thin asparagus. Along with it went another local wine, a Cabernet Franc.

The verdict on Olivia was basically good, though it had a few kinks.

Cubed hash/Chinese Takeout

Thursday 20 March

H: Not the classic cornéd-beast hash (for which see the General Theory of Hash) but a what Barbara would call a "frah," only without so much eggs. Since I had the little cubes of tender potato, left from making the Chicken Pot Pie without so much pot or pie, I just sautéed them, with some cubes of onion, and some cubes of corned beef; all lovingly adorned with thyme and pepper. Didn't even need sauce américaine.

B: A takeout meal ordered in from Ling Ling Garden in Ithaca.
Roast pork eggroll for Noah
Roast pork lo mein for Jeff
Mixed Chinese vegetables for Ehud
Orange-flavor Beef for Barbara
Spicy chicken with cashews for Kathy
And rice, of course. We all shared, and there was plenty left over for future lunches.
Dessert: fortune cookies with Chinese lessons included (Ehud: "Why does it call me a cucumber?"), pink frango mints, and the Belgian chocolates.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Left-over Paella/Rotisserie Chicken and Broccoli

Wednesday March 19

Barbara's away for 11 days excavating Ithaca, NY.

H: left-over paella.

B: Arrived in Ithaca, we went to the P&C grocery store to get a last-minute dinner together for Barbara, Kathy, Jeff and Noah. The store had already-cooked rotisserie chickens, and Jeff steam-crisped some broccoli at home, plus some lentils and rice. Dessert: Belgian chocolates shaped like shells.

Mushrooms, Chicken, and Cream

Tuesday March 18
Some vision of chicken (left-over scraplets thereof) and mushrooms was dancing in our heads. A pasta sauce? No, instead, chicken pot pie without so much pot or pie.
Basically, just sautéed two carrots cut into cubes, a diced onion, then a bunch of asparagus cut on the bias (playing the role of the traditional peas), then the 'shrooms, lots of fresh thyme, and the chicken scraps. But the amounts were looking a tad mingy, so we took a couple of potatoes (now that St. Patrick's is over, they can safely go back to being potatoes), diced them, boiled them up with salt and the thyme sprigs. Now we had too much potatoes, so we put a cup or so aside, added the rest. Then the long awaited glugs of cream. Not a patch on JoDee's chicken pot pie, but just what we had always had in mind.

Corned Beef and Red Cabbage Slaw

Monday March 17
St. Patrick's Day

What could be more traditional? 'Cept it isn’t. But who cares. We boiled up the carn'd beef last night so it'd be ready. Reheated it on the shtove with the last of the wee tatties tossed in, so we did. Then we danced in the Irish Spectacular "Lord of the River," so we did. And we talked the whole night tru in fake Oirish accents, so we didn't.

Leftover Chicken and Roast Vedge

Sunday March 16
And that about sums up that. Nuked the bejezzus out of the thighs and legs.


Saturday March 15

Had a sudden envie for shrimps and rice and I (Holt) had never done a paella.
The basis for this was the Seafood Paella recipe in Modern Spanish Cooking by Sam and Eddie Hart, the geniuses behind one of our fave restaurants in London, Fino. Barbara had a Platonic paella in Majorca, made with seawater. This ain't that, but it's mighty tasty.

First the broth:
We followed Fino's recipe fairly closely with only a few additions and deviations. The important exception was that they (all la-di-da) strain everything out at the end, while we tend to keep everything in. So
Peel 1/2 lb of shrimp
In a sauce pan, sauté the shells in olive oil till pink. Then add about 1 cup of water and boil to get all the good out of them.
In a stockpot sauté till soft and slightly caramelized
1/2 onion
1/2 fennel
add a couple of
plum tomatoes
(in our case we added a couple of frozen smoked and dried tomatoes) and cook down.
At this point Fino adds 1/2 tsp pimenton della Vera, but since we were adding chorizo later we skipped this step.
Then add a liter of water and the strained shrimp essence, plus
a bay leaf
a sprig or two of thyme
a couple of branches of the fennel.
Since Barbara's Platonic paella contained chicken, we made it a more chicken broth by tossing in
a bag of saved chicken bits (backs, necks, wings).
Cook until the chicken's done and the vedge has rendered up all its goodness.
Fish out the thyme, fennel, and chicken.
Strip the chicken bits for bits of chicken.
That's the broth, now on the paella proper.

Unlike a risotto, the secret of a paella is not to stir it. I approached this technique with a certain trepidation, fearing that the end would be crunchy rice, but the proportions were exactly right.
So in a deep frying pan, sauté in olive oil:
the other half of the onion, diced
a red pepper, ditto,
2 cloves of garlic, ditto, ditto,
lightly salt the vedge.
2 links of chorizo (cut into dice if smoked, into slices if not. The Kroger sausage people had had a very firm smoked Spanish chorizo, but this time it was looser and not dried. I made sure it was the Spanish and not the Mexican stuff, but they seemed to have changed their recipe or procedure.)
When all done, add
200 gr. Arborio rice, and stir to coat in the oil as you would for a risotto.
Then add
1 liter of the stock
a healthy pinch of saffron.
Crank up the heat to a mild boil for 20 minutes.
If it's looking dry add 1 ladle of stock. We did but then needed to boil off a little extra liquid at the very end, so the amounts of 1 liter to 200 gr. rice seem just about perfect.
After 20 minutes, add the shrimp, pushing them down into the rice.
For the final 5 minutes, cover the pan tightly, turn the heat to the lowest.
When we uncovered the pan, even the top rice was perfectly done. The shrimp were nice and firm. It didn't need any extra salt either.
We served it with the lovely Conclass Spanish white (the last bottles on sale at Cork 'n' Bottle).

Roast Chicken with Roasted Vedge

Friday March 14

Okay, so we had a roast chicken only two weeks ago. So sue us. Maybe it's just that it's a natural for Shabbas. Also, Holt had an upset stomach, and every Jewish grandmother used to say that chicken, whether roast or soup, is easy on the stomach.

Of course, we now live in a brave new world where the USDA doesn't even try to regulate, and TV ads indicate that your kitchen sponge is likely to be dirty by showing a woman wiping down her counters with a chicken leg. Which is why we make sure that our roast chicken is fully cooked to 165 degrees.

We also slipped butter as well as thyme under the skin of the breast, and skipped the lemon in the cavity (only thyme sprigs). Soaking up the schmaltz around the bird were roasted vedge dusted with (kosher) salt: turnips, fingerling potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and wedges of red onion. The last were particularly tasty.

Reheated Chili with Corn Bread

Thursday March 13

Yes, it's the chili left over from Saturday.

Corn bread, of course, is a natural accompaniment, and part of Holt's Southwestern heritage - he'll never forget his grandmother Nonny's corn bread, served with long-simmered beans and a ham hock. So it's strange that the recipe comes from Barbara, and she can't remember where she got it. Not from her grandmother, that's for sure.

Mix (or if you're fussy, sift together):
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
less than 2 Tbsp. sugar - just scant each one
5 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt

In another bowl, beat together:
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. melted butter, cooled

Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients. Spread batter into a greased 9" cast-iron skillet (or a pie pan will do). Bake in preheated 375-degree oven 30-35 minutes until golden.

Holt did a triple recipe of this at Christmas in the new gigantic cast iron pan and it came out great.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fresh Tuna Caesar Salad

Wednesday March 12

The theory of the dish is simple - a Caesar salad topped with slices of 'ahi tuna steak (yes, the flash-frozen stuff from Trader Joe's - after all, sashimi-grade tuna is ALWAYS frozen, not schlepped to Japan in a constant process of decay).

The salad part was easy. Tear up a small head of romaine lettuce, wash and dry it, and pile it onto plates. No croutons? Skip the croutons, but throw in a few marinated artichokes we had sitting around.

Check the Caesar salad dressing recipe in New Joy; skip the egg, and whip up some white vinegar, a little lemon juice, and olive oil with minced garlic, a chopped-up chunk of hardened Gentleman's Relish (almost pure anchovy) from the back of the fridge, and the teeniest drop of Worcestershire sauce. Droozle a bit on the salad-laden plates, and top with grated parmesan.

It's hard to get frozen tuna steaks right - overcook them and they taste like string. This time they were perfect, so what were we doing right?
First, the tuna defrosted all day in the fridge. When we came home to cook it, we put the whole vacuum-sealed package in a sinkful of cold water to fully defrost, until the steaks were pliable.
We pan-fried them in the thinest film of vegetable oil instead of grilling; the heat is more controllable.
Instead of messing with thermometers, we cheated, cut, and peeked. We cut one of the steaks open, felt the center, and tasted it. If it had been cold, we would have cooked it more.
We did not fear the rare. The tuna had a good band of red inside, and was just warm. If we had let it get piping hot, it would have been overcooked.
We sliced the steaks immediately (no resting!), piled them on top of the salad, and poured the rest of the dressing, with another grate of parmesan, on top.


Chile-rubbed London Broil and Horse(-radish) Whipped Potatoes

Tuesday March 11

As we've said before, London broil is not our favorite cut, but we buy it when it's on sale and freeze it. A good wodge of it, defrosted and dusted with a mix of powdered New Mexico chile, coriander, and cumin, then broiled, is pretty good. Take it out when it's just over rare, let it rest for a full five minutes, and slice it thin against the grain to keep it from being tough.

Our accompaniment was Yukon gold potatoes, chopped up skins-on, boiled, and whipped up with cream and a blob of horseradish.


Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola

Monday March 10

A favorite, which we've blogged about twice before, mostly here. It's odd, though - this started out as an excellent recipe for penne, a standard in Italy; we haven't done it that way for a long time.

Sole Español with Zucchini and Peppers

Sunday March 9

The snow had melted a bit, so we and our friend Julie were able to slog to an admirable - and quite sexy - CCM performance of "L'incoronazione di Poppaea" this afternoon. Afterwards, we drove back to our place, had a glass or three of wine, and snacked on olives, marinated artichokes, Holt's fresh-baked focaccia (produced while waiting for the beans to burn yesterday) and fava hummus (okay, still Turkish fartcake, but mushed up with extra oil, salt, coriander and cumin) while we made Dover sole for dinner.

We got the sole frozen from Trader Joe's - it seems they've stopped stocking our old standby tilapia because it came from China. But we would have preferred sole nevertheless, especially since it comes from the good ol' USA - where we've had about as many tainted food scares and scandals as the Chinese any day.

Oddly, TJ's puts about a pound and a half of frozen sole fillets in each bag. That is way too much for a single dinner, even for us, but it's fine for us plus Julie. While the bag did its final defrost under water, we sliced three zucchini and one enormous red bell pepper into batons.

The vedge sautéd in one pan with olive oil and salt, while the fillets got dusted with pimentón de la Vera and fried in oil in a different - far larger - pan. The smoky paprika gave the fish a Spanish flavor, thus the name. But the tiny thin fillets flake apart while being flipped, so perhaps next time we'll broil or bake them instead of frying.

Kitchen Disaster: Snow-Day Chili

Saturday March 8

The snow began to fall yesterday, amid cries of "Blizzard Alert! Sixteen inches! Your family in danger!" from TV weathercasters hoping to induce ratings-boosting panic. By morning there was calm weather and about six inches on the ground, but we were not about to drive/slide down to Findlay Market anyway. Problem was, we had asked our friends Burcu and Murat, and their little girl Yaz, to dinner that night. What to do?

There are always plenty of dried beans in the house, so the seasonally appropriate answer (which we did last year in the same situation) was a big batch of chili. We started by soaking a pound of kidney beans (bagged, from Kroger - take note of that) in our pressure-cooker pot for an hour or so, and then set them on a very low simmer, with open top, at midday. By three or four PM (after Burcu had called to cancel - there was no way they'd be able to get their van out on the road), some beans were tender, but many were still crunchy, and some were losing their skins. We added three cans of diced tomatoes, and continued to simmer (yes, both us and the beans). By six PM, when they were little better, Holt gave up and clamped the top on the pressure-cooker. Within minutes we could smell the beans burning, and we opened it up to find the whole thing ruined.

Holt doesn't give up easily, though. He dumped the mess down the garbage disposal, cleaned everything up, and put a batch of pinto beans - unbagged, probably from Bigg's - into the pressure-cooker with fresh water. Then he pressure-cooked the bejesus out of them for thirty minutes. And behold! They were tender. He proceeded with our standard recipe. And by 8:30, hot chili was in the bowls.

So beware of Kroger's beans - they've probably been sitting in that bag for decades. And no matter how long a lead time you have, pressure-cook the damn beans from the git-go, and save yourself from Kitchen Disaster.

Pork Tenderloins with Fennel, Fennel, Cream, and Fennel

Friday March 7

This was inspired by a combination of the Epicurious recipe for Pork Tenderloin With Sauteed Onion And Fennel And Fennel Cream and our own previous invention of Pork with Fennel Three Ways. It takes less time, is simpler, and we think tastier than either.

So start by seasoning four thick (ca. 1/2 inch, but be broadminded) slices of pork tenderloin with fennel seed (ground up in your spice grinder) and white pepper (ditto). Let them sit awhile to marinate. And on another chopping block, mince up a shallot to have handy.

Now quarter, core, and thinly slice a fennel bulb, reserving a few fronds for decoration. (With fronds like these, who needs anemones?) Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté the fennel for five minutes or so, then add a good glug of white wine, another grind or three of fennel seed, and some kosher salt. Cover the pan, turn down the heat, and let it braise for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

About five minutes before the braise is due to be done, heat more oil in another pan, salt your tenderloin slices, and brown them over medium-high heat. As they're boneless, they'll probably go quickly, about five minutes total. When they're browned but still pink in the middle, take them out and put them on a plate in a warm oven, to rest while you do the sauce.

In the still-oily pork pan, sauté the previously-minced shallot, then deglaze with just a dribble of white wine. (The Epicurious recipe would have you boil down a total of TWO CUPS of wine and chicken broth to make this sauce - wildly unneccessary even if serving four, not to mention introducing an alien taste of chicken to a pork dish). Add about 1/3 cup of heavy cream, and let it reduce until it's thick and saucelike. The shallot adds a nice brown oniony note to the sauce.

Assemble your plates by piling braised fennel on the bottom, tenderloins in the middle, and sauce on the top; garnish with fennel fronds, the third of our three types of fennel. This dish gets the best out of all three.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Penne alla Saffi

Thursday March 6

Now, how many times have we had Saffi compared with Pasta al Salmone? Our calculation is that they're neck and neck, each served seven times since we started blogging. Not bad, considering that that was in September 2006.

Kielbasa with Red Cabbage and Apples

Wednesday March 5

We've noted how the ingredients are red, but the final dish is purple.
The only change we made was using Jonathan apples this time. Our Farmer's Market friend got them out of a crate picked this past Fall, so they were not as crisp as any just-picked apple; but good and appley. The kielbasa was a smoked one and may have been too assertive for the dish, too sausage-y and just there.

Leftover Chicken with Yuppie Salad

Parade Day (Tuesday - March forth!)

Tonight's dinner was a kind of rehash - though not hash - of Saturday's. We nuked the leftover chicken parts (lusciously anointed with the cavity-lemon by Holt), then poured most of the leftover jus into the saucier and reduced it until it was gravy-like. The cold roasted beets were sliced up and piled atop more watercress, but also topped with slices of goat cheese and anointed with EVOO, tarragon vinegar, and even grey sea salt, for that yuppie touch of the 80s.

Tilapia with Asparagus and Sauce Maltaise

Monday 3 March

Sort of a take on a old dish we used to do lots, called Bundles of Sole (and which we may do again now that Trader Joe's has sole in place of Chinese farm-raised tilapia). In Bundles of Sole, the main thing was the presentation. You boiled the asparagus spears, rolled the sole fillets around them, then practiced fish bondage by tying them up with parboiled strips of scallions. The bundles then got poached in a shallow court bouillon, and served with a hollandaise. Very elegant, but the only disadvantage was that the bundles would always give off a good deal of liquid and make the hollandaise runny.

I wanted to make a sauce maltaise because we had this blood orange in the house, but we used it up to make the fennel and blood orange salad (see below). So made it anyway with just a regular orange; and with the elements just piled on top of one another, no bondage required.

Boiled the asparagus in one pan.
Dipped the tilapia in bread crumbs and fried in the other.
Made the sauce maltaise in the saucier. Sauce maltaise is just hollandaise, but using boiled down orange juice instead of lemon, and topped with orange zest.
Meanwhile, for no good reason, the dam' pilot lights wouldn't spark, so we were moving pans around from burner to burner, all the while igniting matches and yelling "Light, you b@st@rd, you!"
All came out fine: the fishes just done, the asparagus still warm, the sauce rich and creamy.

Roast Chicken & Boeuf Provençal

(Not, not the same night. I screwed up the posting so now we have two under the same heading.)

Roast Chicken

Saturday 1 March

With rosemary under its skin, thyme and lemon in its butt.

Also roasted beets on the side: just add a 1/4 cup of water to a pan, put unpeeled beets in, and cover. You still need Julia Child's asbestos fingers for peeling the hot beets, and resign yourself to the fact that you're going to look like the last act of Sweeney Todd.

Also watercress fresh from the market: dressed with oil, a drop of balsamic, and slightly wilted with several teaspoons of chicken gravy/fat from the roasting pan.

Boeuf Provençal

Sunday 2 March

This is one of the great recipes from Cuisine of the Sun. In its original form it takes three days, but we have cut it down to two, or even one. We started it on Saturday to serve Sunday.

Take a big piece of beef (this time it was a shoulder roast), and cut it into cubes.
Then make a cooked marinade of
sprigs of thyme
a bay leaf
all sautéed and then doused in red wine.
Let it cool and pour over the meat. This is supposed to take a full day, but we let it marinate for most of "Carmen."

Now cook the stew.
To a big pot (dutch oven) add some olive oil, then bacon, and when it's rendered up some fat, brown the boeuf on all sides. Then add
yet more onions, and when browned,
add the marinade,
with the secret ingredient, orange peel. (The recipe calls for the orange peel to be removed the next day with the thyme sprigs and bay leaf, but in fact we love the taste so much that we slice the peel into strips and cook the heck out of them)
Cook this for 2-3 hours until the burf is exceedingly tender.
You can serve at this point, or leave overnight.

(The original recipe calls for removing the fat, which will have formed a smooth sheet on top. So it will, but only if you have used far more wine than I like, in order to raise the level of the liquid over the solids. You can scrape off any excess fat, but there's really not that much, if 1) you've trimmed the beef, and 2) are using bacon rather than French fatback. All in all, a nice step but not absolutely necessary to the triumph of the dish.)

Next day, rehot and add still more carrots. Cook for half an hour or so. The old carrots of the marinade will have virtually disappeared into the thick stoo. Add some chopped parsley (if it isn't winter, which it is) and a handful of black olives (if you don't forget, which I did) about 5 minutes before serving.

There were no prisoners, which is bit of a pity, since one of the the great things about this recipe is that it has three lives, so make the biggest batch you can. We haven't done the full hat trick in a while, but for Round II, you take the left-over stoo, grind it all up with some cooked spinach and lots of parmesan to make a ravioli filling; and then for Round C, you take any left-over filling and roll that in cooked rice to make little meat balls, which you brown in the oven.

Tuna Steaks with Fresh Ratatouille

Friday 29 February (Leap Day)

Sort of gigot de mer but not quite.
The recipe, from Cuisine of the Sun, calls for treating the tuna like a leg of lamb and barding it with garlic cloves, but as we've found to our cost this don't really work.
But we took the idea and ran with it, since the sauce is essentially a big ol' rat (atouille), for which we had nearly all the ingredients to hand. So we sautéed a couple of onions, some garlic, the last of the red peppers, the last of the fennel, added some tomatoes, thyme, salt, pepper, then at the last minute the last of the zukes. Poured the rat over the tuna and baked for about 15 minutes. Yum.

Western Chinese Spareribs and Stir-Fried Broccoli

Thursday 28 February

Pork for Barbara's return to Porkopolis. We had bought a bunch of meaty spareribs, of kind called "Western," i.e. without bones, and thought that an Eastern, i.e. Chinese, barbecue was just the thing. So we lavished the ribs with a jar of our previously-made "Asian Barbecue Sauce," grilled them, and finished them off in the oven.
Meanwhile, we stir-fried some broccoli in its innocence, with just a little garlic and a splash of Shao Xing wine to finish.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Burger, Cinti; Midtown Cafe, Nashville

Wednesday 27 February

Holt thought about pizza and beer, but decided instead on a burger, topped with 1/4 lb. of bacon. That's right, you heard me! I'm a wild man.

Once again, Barbara was out on the town in Nashville. The Midtown Cafe was crowded and hectic, and service was obtrusive rather than easy and practised, as at Tayst. Her lemon artichoke soup - a rich bisque with tart overtones - was good, but other people complained that their salads were too vinegary, and the mushroom tart on puff pastry that the table shared was nothing special.
Her main course of dayboat scallops had only four scallops, but they tasted excellent, served with a creamy lobster sauce over lobster and brie mac n' cheese, with a small sheaf of asparagus on top.
She ended the meal with Sambuca (with three coffee beans, but not on fire) for dessert.

Napas, Cinti; Tayst, Nashville

Tayst, Nashville
Tuesday 26 February

Barbara packed her banjo and hit the road to Nashville to become a yodeling star, but was asked to lecture on the semiotics of urban spaces in Ephesus instead. So, Holt had to batch it, with a simple meal of napa sausages, peppers, onions, and too much wine.

In the meantime, Barbara was being taken out to dinner at Tayst restaurant, in Nashville. Despite the facetious name, this is a place where both food and service are treated seriously. The party was welcomed, catered to, advised, and cosseted throughout the evening. Barbara enjoyed the Pork Belly appetizer, a thick, succulent slice served with nut-encrusted goat cheese and caramelized pineapple; and then the Pumpkin Pie Duck, several tender rare slices of breast served with greens and pumpkin (or was it butternut squash?) fries, and topped with foam.
In honor of her return from New Zealand, we had a Tohu Marlborough Pinot Noir; and a glass of Essencia (in honor of nothing in particular) for dessert.

Spaghetti with Asparagus

Monday 25 February

I was stunned to discover that we've never done this dish since starting the blog, since it's simplicity itself. It's taken from Beard on Pasta, an old standby.

Cut 1/2 lb. • asparagus into 1" pieces on the bias.
Boil in the pasta pot till just tender but still a tad crisp.
Fish asparagus out of the pasta pot and put pasta in the pasta pot (1/2 a package of spaghetti or spaghettini, for us)
In a frying pan add
• 2 TBSPs butter
and fry
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
when they start to color, dump in
• juice of 1 lemon
• 1TBSP Worcestershire sauce (i.e. about half the amount of Wooster to lemon
• lots of fresh pepper.
• Add the asparagus, then
• add the pasta when done.
The combo of the lemon and Wooster gives the asparagooses a perfect zippiness and just enough salty goodness.
As a variation, tonight we oven-roasted the asparagus, rather than boiled 'em, and we're not sure we don’t prefer the darker notes with the Wooster sauce.

Pride of Baltimore Crab Cakes with Fennel and Blood Orange Salad

Sunday 24 February

We made a new type of crab cake as a departure from our usual, following this recipe - though we were not impressed, we have to admit.

The fault may have been in using butter crackers (sort of like Ritz), the only ones we had around, instead of plain Saltine-style soda crackers. But we tend to put the blame on the egg, which made the crabcakes too heavy and soggy. Barbara even felt the need to run up some emergency tartar sauce. So, we're going back to the traditions of our ancestors (all right, half of our ancestors considered crab an abomination, and the other half couldn't afford it).

On the side was a lovely salad of fennel run through the benriner. We put them in water in the fridge to crisp up, which really seemed to perk them up even more, then topped with thin slices of blood oranges, and dressed with just a little oil and rice wine vinegar.

Crab Ravioli

Saturday 23 February
Saturday is our usual day for longer preps, so we made basic pasta dough early in afternoon. The filling was a take on a crab filling for fish, etc. from the old Joy, and mighty tasty too. So
• 1/3 lb. crab meat
• 1/2 small onion, finely minced
• 1/2 red pepper, ditto
• 1/2 stalk of celery
sauté them in
• a lot of butter (1/3 stick)
stir in
• enough bread crumbs to bind
then add
• a zotz of cream, cuz it wasn't quite moist enough.

The sauce over them was just
• a knob of good butter (to the size of a walnut),
reduced in the saucier, then thickened with
• lots of grated romano.

This was so good it had Barbara bouncing out of her chair.

Steak with Fingerling Potatoes

Friday 22 February
A simple grilled steak is sometimes (well, often, if you read this blog) just the thing. With a heaping mound of gorgonzola butter . . . enough to swirl some boiled fingerlings in as well.

Tilapia with Zhough and Ginger-braised Carrots

Thursday 21 February

We still had some of the lovely zhough paste we had frozen and put aside. It made a fine filling for what were in essence tilapia sandwiches. The Trader Joe's fish always seems to comes in packages of 3, so we spread each fillet with a heaping TBSP of bright green zough, folded it over lengthwise to make a little package, then dipped them in bread crumbs to seal the edges. Fried up in oil they were a treat, and we split one of the fish sammiches so there were no ugly fights.
A nice vedge was the carrots with stem ginger - this time just parboiled, not puréed as usual.