Sunday, August 31, 2014

Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola

Thursday 28 August
What to do when you got a packet of gnocchi, a pint of whipping cream, and a block of crumbly Gorgonzola cheese from Trader Joe's.

Squid with Tomato Sauce and Feta

Wednesday 27 August
We have done this twist on the Frugal Gourmet's garides me feta before. 
This time, we looked back to the Frug's original recipe for "Greek" tomato sauce, and it used ingredients I have rarely seen in Greece, such as red wine and canned tomato sauce.  Instead, we did this.
Kalamarakia me Feta
olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 big ripe tomatoes, chopped 
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
big pinch ground allspice
white wine as a drizzle
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano
1/4-1/2 lb. feta, cut into half-inch cubes
Drizzle oil in a pan, add onion and sauté until translucent.  Add garlic and let sizzle for half a minute, then add tomato paste and stir about until a bit toasty.  Then add tomatoes with their juice, parsley, cinnamon, allspice, and enough wine to loosen the sauce.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, slice the squid bodies into half-inch-thick rings, and the tentacles into bite-size pieces, feeling around and removing tough things like beaks, if any.  Put them in the sauce and let them simmer on low heat for 40-50 minutes, until shrunken but tender.

At end, add oregano leaves and feta cubes, and simmer 2-3 minutes, until cheese is hot but not melted, before serving.
This doesn't claim to be genuinely Greek, just tasty.

Szechuan Smoky Eggplant

Tuesday 26 August
We've been trying (but not succeeding) to duplicate this recipe for a favorite smoky-flavored eggplant for a long time.  This try, we came damn close.
So take:
6-7 slim Asian eggplants, split in half longways
3-4 long green Anaheim or banana peppers, split in half longways
kosher salt
1 big onion, sliced pole to pole
ca. 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 huge clove garlic, chopped
ca. 1 tsp. Szechuan bean paste
ca. 1 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce
ca. 1-2 Tbsps. soy sauce
ca. 1-2 tsps. liquid smoke (we had Mesquite)
drizzle of sesame oil
Chopped scallion greens or chives (optional)
Arrange eggplants and peppers cut side up on foiled, oiled tray; sprinkle with more oil and some kosher salt.  Broil at high heat until browned on that side, then turn and brown on the other, until a bit wrinkled and pooped.  Remove, let cool a bit, and slice on the bias into bite-size pieces.
Heat the wok, add oil, and stir-fry onion slices with a little salt until they begin to turn golden.  Add garlic and ginger and stir briskly for a minute.
Add the basic amount of bean paste and hoisin, and stir-fry for a half minute or so.  Then add all the eggplant and pepper pieces, and stir-fry some more.  As it warms, add about 1 Tbsp. soy sauce and 1 Tsp. liquid smoke, mix and stir.  Taste, and add more of each seasoning as it suits you, so that the flavors are balanced: salty, smoky, not too sweet. 
When it's hot and seasoned as you like it, drizzle with sesame oil, sprinkle with chopped scallion greens if you have any, and serve.


The Rest of the Chicken and the Greens of the Beets

Monday 25 August
Today was the first day of class (sob).  So we needed something homey to console us for the end of summer and the beginning of fall, especially as the weather has turned, if anything, more summery and sweltering than before. 

We had marinated Saturday's chicken legs, thighs, and wings in lemon, oil, garlic, rosemary and thyme, so it was easy to brown and then braise them in white wine.
In the meantime, we took the washed greens from Friday's baby beets (bulked out with some garden chard) and made this Chez Panisse recipe, without raisins, but with toasted pistachios.

It provided a hearty, slightly bitter note against the unctuous chicken.

Taste of Belgium, Corryville

Sunday 24 August
Today was the opening party for our department, and as our Fearless Chairman had done some teaching in Belgium, he chose this new-ish place to hold the party in.  
Our departmental administrator gave out tickets for beverages, which gave you a choice of Stella Artois ("I hear there's some beer in Belgium") or white wine, and waiters carried around little plates of appetizers.  
Those included Belgian endive leaves (get it?) stuffed with vegetables, beer cheese in puffs or in a bowl with bread, chicken and waffles with spicy-sweet sauce (the only substantial choice) on a skewer, and a couple of desserts: the famous Belgian waffles with strawberries and cream, and waffles with chocolate sauce.

All that was fine and friendly enough, but a few chicken pieces on a skewer don't provide much protein (where were the moules frites and the carbonnade Flamande?).  So once we'd chatted ourselves hoarse, we went home and whipped together a salad of tuna, capers, tomatoes, red onion, tiny cukes, and garden greens, dressed with oil and vinegar.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Cream

Saturday 23 August
We got our usual Saturday chicken at Bare's today, and had them cut it up so we could cook the breasts today.  Actually, we prefer the way we do it ourselves, so that we can save the backbone for broth instead of sawing it in half, as Bare's does.

Still, the chicken tasted great when braised with wine and tarragon, with a side of mushrooms sautéed with thyme, and the pan deglazed with cream.