Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tuna Steaks à la Fino with Kale Crisps

Saturday 28 January
After all our anniversary indulgences, we thought some simple fish and vegetables would let us off light.  But there's no need to go light on flavor, so we went to the Fino cookbook, Modern Spanish Cooking, for a tuna recipe with over-the-top taste.
For it, you need:
1 zucchino, cut into small dice (a good substitute for Fino's cucumber)
4 thin scallions, chopped small
1 tsp. whole grain Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
a small glugg of honey
2 tuna steaks
fresh ground black pepper
olive oil
Spanish olive oil
In a bowl, toss together zucchino, a touch of salt, scallions, mustard, lemon juice, and honey.  That's the side for your tuna.
Dust the steaks with pepper, and sear quickly in a hot oiled pan.  When rare, set out next to a swath of zucchini cubes, and drizzle with good Spanish olive oil.  Ours was Cortijo de Suerte Alta Marqués de Prado, from Baena.
Then there was the kale, which we bought today at Findlay Market.  We learned to love kale crisps back in May.  Here's the recipe, just in case it disappears from elsewhere on the Web.

1 bunch kale (ours was very curly - see below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350º.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Wash the kale carefully; pull the leaves from the stems into bite-size pieces, and dry them thoroughly with a salad spinner. Drizzle leaves with olive oil, toss with your hands until well oiled, and sprinkle with salt.  Bake until edges are brown, and the leaves are crisp.  They say that flat kale takes 10 to 15 minutes, but curly is more like 20+.
We put the kale in a big bowl on the table, so we could grab a crisp or two while noshing down onto our tuna and zucchini.  As a side or as a snack, it's addictive.

Chicken Curry with Sweet Potato

Friday January 27
We have already celebrated the Chinese version of lunar new year, so tonight we celebrated the Vietnamese version, Tet.  Unfortunately this is a word that is inseparable from "Offensive" by people our age.
The dish, however, is spice-warm, with a deep orange color and sweet flavor from the vegetables.  We used two chicken breasts instead of thighs, and slashed them deeply so they could soak up the curry flavor.   Delicious AND auspicious.

Anniversary Dinner at La Poste

Thursday 26 January
This was our big 21st anniversary, which means that our marriage can now legally drink in the US.  We celebrated by drinking, of course responsibly, along with eating responsibly, i.e. having the five-course tasting menu at our nice local restaurant, La Poste.
We started with a festive glass of sparkle: one glass of Prosecco Il Folio, and one of a sparkling Chardonnay, Pascual Toso Brut from Argentina - the former, oddly, more brut than the latter, which was rather mild.  In the meantime, we amused our gueules with a mix of chopped tomato and orange, served with pita chips.
Our first appetizer was a creamy seared scallop in bacon vinaigrette, set atop a mound of bitter greens on a rye toast, with gorgonzola foam and a sous-vide egg, just barely solidified.  The flavors were vivid, and it actually would have made a wonderful breakfast.
Our second appetizer was also flavorful: wild mushroom ravioli in cream sauce, topped with mushroom slices and parmesan, and crisped sage leaves.  Our nice server said this was the restaurant's most popular dish, and we can see why.
Then we seguéd to our main wine of the evening, a 2008 Domaine de la Bastide Blanche, a Mourvedre blend from Bandol in Provence.  This was almost chocolatey, not very tannic, so it went with the variety of foods that were to come.
Our fish course was the night's special, pintado, a.k.a. Brazilian tigerfish, a novelty for us.  It turns out to be a freshwater catfish with spots not stripes, so why isn't it called jaguarfish?  It was served as succulent tranches with crisp skin, dressed with lemon and anchovy sauce on a bed of teeny tiny yukon gold potato dice and slivers of asparagus.  We loved every little bit of it.
Our meat course was another special, bone-in veal strip steak all of 2" thick, with a strong (maybe too strong) reduction sauce, creamy corn, barley risotto, black trumpet and bluefoot mushrooms.  The veal was excellent, but there was almost too much going on on the plate; you could have dropped either the corn or the barley, and lightened up on the reduction, and it would have been even better.
Finally, we had our choice of desserts, and we chose a shortbread tart with dark chocolate mousse, laid out with a half sphere of pastry filled with white chocolate mousse and a mandarin segment; and a cardamon and orange crème brulée.  A fine finish to an excellent meal.
And the best part was, we walked the two blocks home and had a comfortable snifter of Calvados in bed.  We're so glad that our anniversary is old enough to drink now.

Gourmet Tuna Noodle Casserole

Wednesday 25 January
Barbara wanted to make something soothing for Holt's still-queasy stomach, and as she was home for the afternoon, she took on the surprisingly labor-intensive job of making a tuna noodle casserole that you wouldn't mind eating.  It was prompted by a packet of dried soup (crema di funghi porcini) that some kind soul brought us from the Italian supermarket GS.  So in the unlikely event that you have such a packet, here's a useful thing to do with it.
8 oz. rotini pasta
6 chopped scallions, whites and greens separated
8 0z. sliced fresh mushrooms (cremini would be good)
small handful of chopped parsley
ditto of fresh thyme leaves
packet of dried porcini soup mix (see above; 3 portion size)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup (or more) heavy cream
1 can solid white albacore tuna, preferably in oil, drained
1 small fillet cooked salmon (left over from Saturday)
1/4 cup panko
Start some salted water boiling, and cook rotini until just al dente; drain and set aside.  Heat a pat of butter in a large pan and sauté the scallion whites for a minute or two, then the mushrooms until they turn dark.  Turn heat down a bit, add parsley, thyme, and scallion greens, and toss for a couple of minutes.  Sprinkle the soup mix over, mix well, and gradually add the milk, then the cream, stirring to dissolve.  Cook on low; crumble in large chunks of tuna and salmon; add more cream if necessary, until the mixture is sludgy but edible; and correct for seasoning.  Toss in rotini and mix well.
Grease a casserole with abundant butter, and pile the mixture in.  If it looks dry, add a driblet of cream here and there; cover, and cook in a 400º oven for about 15 minutes.
Melt a pat of butter in the microwave, and mix in the panko.  Uncover the casserole and sprinkle its top with the buttered panko, and let brown in the oven about 15 minutes more.
Ends up surprisingly tasty, and though we're unlikely to make the same thing ever again, it will serve as a good guide for improving the bland childhood favorite.

Hot Dogs and Potato Salad

Tuesday 24 January
Barbara had a yen for New York style hot dogs, i.e with a mess o' sauerkraut, so we went to Eckerlin's at Findlay Market and got the closest Cincinnati equivalent (mild Metts and their fresh kraut).  To go with it, Holt whomped up a German potato salad (with bacon, but still without dill pickle) this morning, so it had a day to sit in the cat-protection device (i.e. the microwave) and soak up the flavors. 
When we got home, all we had to do was get out the bowl of potato salad, stick a spoon in it, brown the dogs in a skillet, heap the kraut over them, cover and steam until hot, and serve with horseradish mustard.
It was good, but the giant mound of kraut seems to have upset Holt's delicate stomach.  He'll be more sparing from now on - and Barbara is guaranteed to eat whatever he leaves over.

New Year's Bok Choy and Mushrooms

Monday 23 January
In previous years when we were able to celebrate Chinese New Year together, we always seemed to cook chicken.  Unfortunately, chicken is lucky if it's whole, but unlucky if it's in pieces, as ours usually was. 
This year we decided to try the Chinese tradition of cooking a vegetarian meal to usher in New Year.  The thinking is that it's more virtuous to kill nothing at the start of the year; and though oyster sauce actually does contain some oyster, we are assured that even devout Buddhists don't mind eating oysters, as they mean good luck or good business. 
This recipe is a spin on some internet recipes and a few tips from New Joy, remade so that they don't use chicken broth; and based on the fact that we got a lot of beautiful baby bok choy at Daisy Mae's on Saturday, and a pound of fresh white mushrooms to match them. 
So, take:
a handful dried shiitake mushrooms (meaning longevity), rehydrated 20 mins. with hot water, drained and liquid reserved, stems removed, trimmed into 1/4" slices
1 to 1 1/2 lb. baby bok choy (meaning 100 types of prosperity), washed carefully; leaves separated from stems; both sliced into 1/2" slices; inner baby leaves left whole, and bottoms trimmed

1 lb. white or crimini mushrooms (more longevity), sliced into 1/4" slices
6 scallions (cleverness?), whites chopped fine, separate from greens sliced into 1/2" lengths
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons oyster sauce (see above)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon Shao Xing wine
grind of white pepper
1/2 cup rice
1 cup water
canola oil
sesame oil
Get all the vegetables prepped, and stir together oyster sauce, soy, hoisin, Shao Xing, and pepper, to taste. 
Start rice: rub bottom of saucepan with sesame oil, pour in rice, then water, then a touch of salt.  Set on fire until it starts to boil, then cover and lower heat to lowest setting for 19 minutes.  Open and fluff.
Heat wok to high, add oil, then scallion whites and garlic.  Stir fry for a few seconds, add bok choy stems, then whole inner parts, and some salt; finally add leaves, give a few stirs, sprinkle on some reserved shiitake mushroom water, cover and let steam for a few minutes until tender.  Remove from wok, pour off most of liquid into mushroom liquid bowl, and set aside.
Reheat wok to high, add more oil, and stir-fry fresh mushrooms with some salt, then dry mushrooms, then scallion greens, until fresh mushrooms are dark and tender and liquid has boiled away.  Stir in sauce mixture to thicken, then re-add bok choy.  Reheat, adding a little mushroom/bok choy liquid if necessary.  At end, taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.  Turn off heat, and sprinkle on a touch of sesame oil.  Serve with no reservations.
Dessert: chopped fresh pineapple (meaning wealth and luck in gambling) and biscotti (meaning nothing in particular).

Salmon Fillets with Fennel and Fennel

Sunday 22 January
The second half of our side of salmon was devoted to one of Epicurious' Best Recipes for Salmonbut it turned out we had done it before, and made the same changes that time that we made this time.
Still good, though.

Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce

Saturday 21 January
We had bought a side of skin-on Norwegian salmon, and we used the first half of it in this Madhur Jaffrey recipe.  It is terrific, and it sure ain't your usual salmon.  We had to have rice as well, just to soak up the creamy, spicy sauce.
The wine stood up to the spice very well: it was Ipsis Blanc Flor, from Tarragona, with the sweet complexity of a gewurtztraminer.  We love Tarragona.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Brussels Sprout and Potato Hash with Smoked Beef

Friday 20 January
We needed something to flesh out Wednesday's leftover beef.  And by coincidence, Barbara had done a tour of the frozen garden and found a feathery tree of tiny Brussels sprouts.  Dora, of course, was fascinated.

The answer came with this recipe from an online recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction, halved to suit the quarter pound of tiny sprouts taken from the tree. 
olive oil
1/4 pound Brussels sprouts (quartered lengthwise if normal size; we left ours whole)
1/2 pound (or more) Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 a small onion, diced
1 big clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon (yes, you heard right) dried, not fresh, thyme
black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
In a heavy pan  - the recipe calls for cast iron, but next time we'll use nonstick, if you know what we mean - sauté the potatoes and sprouts in oil over medium heat.  Cover pan and cook for about 30 minutes, peeking and stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and slightly browned.

Add onion and garlic, drizzle with a teaspoon of oil, and cook open, stirring occasionally, while adding thyme, pepper, salt, and (lastly) lemon zest. It's done when everything is brown and crisp, perhaps in 10 minutes.  
All we had to do was pull the leftover smoked beef into shreds, nuke it for a minute or two in its own juices, and serve it alongside.  That could convert any vegan lumberjack.

Baked Chiles Rellenos

Thursday 19 January
These fresh green poblano chiles didn't hold their shape well while being roasted and de-skinned.  They were too shredded-up for our usual method of breading and frying, so we stuffed them with some of our stored-up chorizo mixed with enough coljack cheese to make it sticky, and just put them into a baking pan and into a 375º oven for about 20 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.  
They weren't as attractive as the fried version, as the dark green of the chile became almost black; but at least they held together.  At the last minute, we topped them with the last of the arugula, goat cheese and cream cheese spread we whipped up at Christmas.
We wonder whether poblano skin is tolerable enough that we could skip the roasting stage altogether to either fry or bake the rellenos; this will call for more tasty chile experiments.

Crock Pot Smoked Beef

Wednesday 18 January
We had a two-pound English shoulder roast bought for 3 bucks a pound from Kroger's.  Normally we'd have made it into Julia Child's potroast, but we were looking for a change.  Holt's dad Harold used to make a superb long-simmered pot roast with liquid smoke, so we looked around the internet and found this.
Informed by the reviews, we made several changes, as you would for any recipe that had the same amounts of ingredients for 2 pounds as for 4 pounds of meat.  Instead of the 2 Tablespoons each (!) of salt and pepper, we just sprinkled salt and pepper over the roast as looked reasonable, maybe a half teaspoonful of each.  Minced 1 large clove of garlic and rubbed in a quarter teaspoon of dried rosemary and/or thyme; that got rubbed into the meat too.  Put the meat on a large sheet of tinfoil, showered it with a teaspoon of liquid smoke (mesquite flavor) and a teaspoon of Worcestershire, and sealed it tightly.
Of course, Dora had to sit on the foil, as well as being fascinated by the slow cooker.  But finally we got her out and the meat in.

Results (of the roast, not Dora) after 9 hours on low: it leaked and burned a little, but we decanted the tinfoiled packet of roast and juices into a separate platter, shredded the meat - with a spoon! - and it was savory and succulent (especially the fat).  Served it with some batons of quick-sautéed zucchini, for our fat-conscience's sake. 
Warning, though: two pounds of meat cooks down to maybe three servings, though you could make it four if you eke one out with mashed potatoes, as we intend to.

Pork and Fennel Two Ways

Tuesday 17 January
Dora had a lot of fun with the bulb of fennel we brought home from Findlay Market, but we were uncertain what to do with it.

We’ve done this combo before, but this time, we thought we'd take some ideas from this recipe.
We added the onions to the sauté of fennel root, which made it sweeter.  We patted the pork medallions with crushed fennel seed, as well as salt and white pepper, then fried them; removed and fried the shallot; and finally deglazed with wine.  The broth and cream of the second recipe would have only made it whiter and more bland. 
It was already pretty bland anyway, so next time we'll try chopping up a big handful of fennel fronds (if Dora leaves us any) and adding them to the sauce after the deglazing.  

Aromatic Lamb Shank with Lentils

Monday 16 January
We first had this recipe when we were on fellowship in Australia, living in Sydney Women's College (Holt was in seventh heaven).  It's hard to find new ways to cook lamb for people who are as used to it as Aussies, but the girls in the dining hall were lapping this up, as were we.  We complimented the chef, and he revealed that the recipe was by Nigella Lawson.  
So give a little pout like a domestic goddess, and line up these ingredients:
vegetable oil
2 lamb shanks
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced (it and garlic can be whizzed up in the processor with a pinch of salt)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Black pepper
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons Marsala
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 cup red lentils (Nigella said 2 tablespoons, but that's ridiculous with the amount of liquid, and gives you no extra vegetable)
Proceed to put some oil into a dutch oven and brown the lamb shanks over medium heat; set aside. 
Add a dribble more oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft, sprinkling in a pinch or two of salt.  Stir in turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper, and nutmeg, and season with some freshly ground pepper.
Stir in the honey, Marsala, and soy sauce, scraping the spoon to get all the honey out.  Put the shanks back in, add cold water almost to cover, bring to boil, then put the lid on, lower the heat and simmer gently for 1-1½ hours or until the meat is tender.
Add your cup of lentils and simmer, covered, until soft and plump and pretty, like Nigella.  That may take from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the age of the lentils - Nigella is, of course, ageless.  Add salt to taste, and let bubble uncovered until the sauce is as thick as you like. 
Not only is this luscious, but it makes the house smell terrific.

Quick Roastbeef Hash

Sunday 15 January
We had the great sullen chunk of cow left over from Wednesday, so we made a hash of it, according to our old theory.
The meat was roast beef; the potatoes yukon golds; the stock turkey; the herb parsley only.  Simple.  And to make it quick, we whizzed up all but the onions in the robot-coupe.
One amendment, which turned out to be an improvement: the beef was a mite fatty, so we trimmed the fat off, whizzed it up before anything else, and melted it in the pan to fry the onions and potatoes.  It probably bumped up our saturated fat levels closer to heart-attack range, but it made the hash tender, and it tasted great.  

Sweet Potato Ravioli

Saturday 14 January
We had some sweet potatoes sitting around from markets previous, and also the tail end of a can of pumpkin that our cat-sitter had left us from her weekend here.  The solution seemed to be to stuff a set of ravioli.

We based the filling on Lidia Bastianich's Cappellacci di zuccacut by a third, and adapted for what we had.  There are a lot of other opinions on the perfect recipe out there, which you can read if you want the amusement, and to practice your Italian.
Our actual procedure was:
1 lb. sweet potato and a mite of leftover canned pumpkin
olive oil
Enough maple-hazelnut biscotti  (which Holt made for Joanna and Ian's wedding) to make 1/3 cup crumbs.  These would normally be amaretti crumbs.
1/4 cup grated parmesan
pinch of grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Cut the sweet potato into chunks, toss with a mite of olive oil, and bake on a tray in a 350º oven until tender and a bit wizened but not browned, maybe 40 mins.  Let cool, and start grinding up in the robot-coupe: the biscotti, parmesan, and sweet potato.  Mix in nutmeg and lemon zest.  Taste, add salt if needed, and set aside.
Mix up a batch of fresh pasta in the robot coupe, according to Beard on Pasta:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
Pinch of salt
2 whole large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon oil.
Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process to blend, then add the eggs and oil through the feed tube. Continue to process until the dough begins to form a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add a tablespoon or two of flour. If it's too dry, add a tiny amount of water. Process only until it forms a ball.
Turn the dough from the food processor out onto a floured board. Dust your hands with flour, and knead by hand for about 5 minutes. Make a ball and then slightly flatten it. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes - an hour is better.
Cut rested dough into four parts; roll first with rolling pin on a floured board, then roll out in the pasta roller from levels 1 to 5 - we only did it to 4 this time, so it was a mite thick.  Fit into the ravioli press, fill with the zucca filling - should make 2-3 sets - and cover and press.  We made 2 1/2 sets or 30 ravioli, and there was still a ramekin of filling left over.  Boil in abundant boiling water until they rise to the surface, and nibble an end to make sure the pasta's done.
We served the ravioli with sage butter, made by toasting some fresh chiffonaded sage leaves in melted butter; and sprinkled with Malden sea salt.
We were so full and happy that dessert had to wait until later: Michael Clarke's preserved pears topped with biscotti crumbs.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chicken Breasts with Porcini Cream Sauce

Friday 13 January
We got some dried porcini in large slices from Bell's market in Philadelphia; we wanted to leave them large, so proceeded thus.
1 huge (1 lb.) boneless, skinless chicken breast (we thought there were two, but never mind, we'll slice it later)
White pepper and salt
canola oil
25 grams dried porcini
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon Marsala
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
Soak porcini in hot water to cover in a small bowl until softened, 20 to 30 minutes. Lift porcini out, squeezing liquid into bowl, then rinse porcini to remove any grit and set aside. Strain soaking liquid through a sieve lined with a damp paper towel into a bowl and reserve the liquid.
Preheat a large ovenproof skillet to medium-high and add butter and canola oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown for 2 minutes on each side. Put pan into oven at 350º. 
Put another skillet on at lower heat, and add a pat of butter and oil, then shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes or until the shallots are wilted. Pour in the reserved porcini water, turn the heat up to high and simmer for 4-5 minutes or until liquid is thickened. Add mushrooms and thyme, see how much liquid they give off; add Marsala and cream and continue to boil to thicken. 
Slice chicken, lay out on a bed of potatoes mashed with butter, goat cheese, lemon and white pepper (left over from our Christmas spreads, actually), and pour sauce over it.  
Tastes like very heaven.  It's so much better to have one succulent chicken breast and slice it, than to halve it, pound it thin and have it turn gradually into leather.

Vegetable Curry

Thursday 12 January
This is one of the few Indian dishes in the Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking, named there sabzi ka curry.  Holt once asked a bunch of Indian fellow-students if they ever ate brussels sprouts in curry sauce, and they were totally unfamiliar with the idea.  It's a big subcontinent, but this may be a memsahib dish; here's how you do it nonetheless.
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced
vegetable oil
a good squirt of tomato paste
a handful of tomatoes, puréed
2 Kennebec potatoes, diced
2 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 to a pound of brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
a handful of raisins, to taste
3 zucchini, diagonally sliced (we didn't have these, so we used mostly brussels sprouts)
1 apple, diced
a lemon's worth of juice
yogurt and/or rice, optional
On a plate, pile up your spices:
1/2 Tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 Tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 Teaspoon ginger
1/2 Teaspoon fenugreek
1/2 Teaspoon garam masala (optional)
1/2 Teaspoon dried crumbled medium Chimayo Chile (to taste)
1 whole cardamom pod, ground
In a large pot or skillet, sauté the onion, then garlic, in oil over moderate heat until transparent.  Add the spices and stir until dark, about 3 minutes; then stir in and brown the tomato paste a bit.  Add the puréed tomatoes, and let simmer, covered, ca. 10 minutes.

While that's happening, parboil the potatoes in water until done, then drain and add them, carrots, sprouts, and raisins to the sauce, to simmer 5 minutes more.  Last, add zucchini if any, and apples.  Season with salt and lemon juice, and simmer 10 minutes more until everything's happy. 
Serve with or without a dollop of yogurt, on rice or not, for savory goodness.  It may not be genuine, but sure tastes good.

Roast Beef and Rude Vegetables

Wednesday 11 January
Last time our local Kroger's had a meat sale, Barbara picked up a big buster of a bottom round roast.  This is a true cheap cut, unlike the flanks and tri-tips that should be cheap but actually cost a bomb; that's the premium for fashionabilty, like the fact that Chilean sea bass costs eight times as much as Patagonian toothfish, which is the same thing. 
We roasted our bottom (round) according to the directions in New Joy, which has worked well for us before.  And of course there were vedge to roast alongside: halved shallots, then batoned carrots, similar yukon gold potatoes, and finally parsnips.
On our last tour of this recipewe noted that the roast went into a 400º oven and after half the time went down to 300º; but we didn't say that you should roast until the internal temperature reaches 135-140º for better slicing.  But it turned out that this roast still had a core of ice despite a day's defrosting, so it took over 2 hours to come to temperature.  We had to scoop the vedge into a closed baking dish so it wouldn't burn, and then wait the agonizing 7.5 minutes while the roast rested and the vedge went back into the oven to rewarm.
Barbara had made a visit to a new wine shop, Marty's Hops and Vines: she got a Graziano Enotria Barbera, which though it was filed with Italian wines, actually comes from Mendocino, and is dark and grapey to suit a rich roast.

Indian Spiced Tuna and Chard

Tuesday 10 January
We had used Madhur Jaffrey's spicing for our Vigilia chard, which we still had leftovers of.  So we went to her Indian Cooking to find her spicing for fish.  She advised this mix: about 1 1/2 tsp. of ground cumin, a third of that of ground coriander, same for turmeric, and a big pinch of cayenne; salt and pepper to taste get mixed in too.  Dry the tuna steaks and pat the spice mixture onto both sides.  Then pat about 2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh cilantro leaves on top of that. 
Did that, filmed a pan with oil, got it hot, and seared the tuna on both sides, ca. 2-3 minutes a side, so it was browned but you could see a line of rareness on the center of the sides.  Served it with the reheated chard and some mango orange chutney we have had sitting around in the fridge, to make an unexpected Indian feast.

Stuffed Pork Medallions

Monday 9 January
Bigg's had a sale on already-butterflied boneless pork chops, pink and pretty.  So we stocked up, and since we had a last bowl of the sausage stuffing from Christmas left, this was the time to stuff a couple.
The only thing we didn't have was the timing, so we went here and read a few of the hundreds of reviews.  They warn you that you shouldn't cook the chops as long as recommended in the original recipe, 25 minutes; our 1 1/2 inch thick (Before Butterflying) chops, once seasoned, stuffed, and toothpicked closed, took 2 minutes to brown on each side, and 17 minutes in a 350º oven to cook quite enough.  
Pretty good, really.

Penne alla Gorgonzola

Sunday 8 January
A perfect quick meal for our return home.  We seem to have finally made this the standard Italian way, with penne pasta.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tai Lake in Philadelphia's Chinatown

Saturday 7 January
Last time we were in Philadelphia's small but homey Chinatown, we had a great meal at Shiao Lan Kung.  But it's a pretty popular, crowded place, and this time we formed a small crowd ourselves: we two and our friends Lisa, Sandra, Michele (who doesn't eat red meat), and Michael.  So we headed to a seafood place we'd seen highly rated on the internet: Tai Lake. 
A lucky choice: on arrival, we were immediately escorted to the one vacant round table and served tea, plus some Tsingtao beer, which led to a discussion with Michael (who is German) about the Reinheitsgebot purity law (as we say in the Department of Redundancy Department).
There were several parties of Chinese people enjoying the pre-new-year specialties; unusually, Tai Lake supplies an extra seasonal menu that translates these specialties, so we had a nice time passing it around and commenting on the jelly fish and crispy pork intestine, snake and mushroom soup, duck tongues, and braised sea cucumber. 
We played it rather safer, however. 

We shared appetizers of crispy seafood rolls (nice and creamy inside) and pearl-like steamed shrimp dumplings.  Then we went on to a dish of snowpea leaves with savory dry scallop sauce - here Michael (who is a botanist) asked about the species of plant it was, and Barbara was just able to come up with pisum sativum.  Other main dishes were crisp and peppery salt-baked softshell crab; littleneck clams with minced pork and basil, with a whiff of star anise; and a whole steamed chicken, a bit bland at first, needing the chopped ginger that came with it, but more savory flavors came out as it cooled. 
We ended with fortune cookies and oranges.  An auspicious feast for the upcoming Year of the (Yang Water) Dragon.

American Academy in Rome Party

Friday 6 January
Holt was a Fellow of the AAR, and they give an annual party that is usually notable for impressive spaces (supplied by former Fellows - but don't look at us, we're not on that level).  This venue was certainly up to it: Laurie Olin's landscape architecture office in the Public Ledger building in Center City, offering terrific views down to Independence Hall.
The food was up to the occasion.  There was a full bar, and friendly servers circulated, offering rare tuna tacos and pulled pork sliders with cheese.  On the buffet were varied types of sushi; melted bries with fruit in puff pastry; little pizzas; all sorts of cheese, dolmades, olives, and fruits.  Like last year, we didn't have to think about dinner afterwards.

An Eating Tour of Northeast Philadelphia

Thursday 5 January
This afternoon we flew to Philadelphia for our annual professional meetings.  Our kind friend Helene met us at the airport and swept us away to Northeast Philadelphia for an eating tour of her old, traditionally Jewish, neighborhood.  Though famous landmarks like Abe's Appetizers (certified loxologists) are gone, the new Russian population is making the food scene flourish.
First we headed to Lipkin's bakery for lushly seeded rye bread, almond horns, assorted knishes and ruggelach, and sticky cinnamon buns.  Helene had thoughtfully brought butter and a breadknife, and we sliced, buttered, and wolfed down the rye bread and knishes right in the car. 

As if that weren't enough, we proceeded to Hesh's bakery, for their lavish almond rolls, cheese crescents, palmiers, and cheese danish.  We weren't able to cope with their famous chocolate chip poundcake, which comes by the loaf.
Those are both old Jewish bakeries, but the Russians brought in a winner in the new Bell's Market.  At first it looks like a local supermarket, with the usual produce in the front.  But then you see the display of twelve types of kvass; you pass (if you can) the Pickle Bar, where a nice girl offers tastes; circle around the butcher's shop with the advertised special on Moskovskaya Ivanko salami; grab some porcini from the dried mushroom section; scan Smoked Fishworld, to which the whole end of the store is devoted; and end up at the in-store bakery display of elaborate layer cakes like the Korolevskiy and the Spartak.

The hardest job was deciding what to get at the Pickle Bar.  For example, look at the picture above and note that there are three kinds of Odessa salad (homemade, Odesskiy, and Moldova), and that none looks remotely like the others.  We ended up with Helene's favorite, the Abhazkiy salad, made of eggplant, red pepper, and walnuts; some artichoke salad with red pepper, onion, and olives; and four full-sour pickles.  We fleshed it out with a cup of Acme whitefish salad, and as if we didn't have enough pastry, bars of spinach or cheese khachapury, the Georgian equivalent of spanakopita/tiropita, plus a couple of sour cream puffs for dessert.

That night at the hotel, we laid out our feast on the desk.  With a bottle of chilled white wine from the nearby State Store, we ate like Russian royalty (before that awkward moment at Ekaterinaberg).

Penne Carbonara

Wednesday 4 January
We did our standard recipe as previously posted on the blog, except that we don't say there that we beat the 2 eggs up (1 per person) in a separate bowl, add a lot of ground black pepper and about 3/4 cup of grated parmesan or romano cheese to it, and have it standing by to add to the pan after we've folded in the penne to the bacon and onions.  You don't want the eggs to scramble in too hot a pan, but you don't want them to stay cold and liquidy either.

Arroz con Pavo

Tuesday 3 January
We wanted something spicy for the coldest night of this (rather warm) winter.  Holt was thinking of turkey mole, as we still have lots of Christmas leftovers, but that takes two days.  Instead, we did a turkey take on arroz con pollo.
We started with a sofrito or as Lydia calls it, a pestata: first a clove of garlic (with salt - a great trick), then a stick of celery, then half a carrot, each whizzed up in the same robot-coupe.  We chopped a half onion separately, because onion tends to liquefy in the robot-coupe.   Sautéed the onion in a pan with a couple of rashers of chopped bacon, then added the pestata. 
After a few minutes, we whizzed up a handful of our bag-ripened, now rather wizened, garden tomatoes with one chilpotle pepper in adobo sauce.  Added turkey stock to the tomato mixture until it came up to 2 cups plus, and poured it in the pan with the pestata, a cupful of rice, and some salt.  Raised the temperature until boiling, then covered and kept on a low simmer.  We added a couple of handfuls of slivered turkey from the Christmas bird toward the end. 
It took about 35 minutes for the rice to be tender, and some salt for the dish to be savory, warm spiciness.