Saturday, January 30, 2016

Golden Cauliflower "Steaks"

Friday 29 January

Vegan food is becoming strangely fashionable, and its chief avatar is the grilled cauliflower "steak."  There are lots of recipes out there, and most of them airily assure us that the little cauliflower florets that fall off when you're cutting the steaks "can be saved for some other use" (compost?), and result in something that has brown hashmarks outside but is uncomfortably crispy inside.  This recipe uses the loose florets in the relish or sauce that tops the steaks; and since it finishes in the oven, the "steaks" are tender all the way through.
We got four steaks out of a single golden cauliflower, but didn't think it made much sense to make two separate sauces or to top a hot dish with a cold relish.  So we made a combination: a half cup each of Moroccan black olives and sun-dried tomatoes in oil, cooked up with a few anchovy fillets, the loose cauliflower florets, and a sufficient drench of white wine to hold it all together.  We garnished it with whatever parsley and hardier oregano leaves we could pick from our frozen garden.  And when the cauliflower came out of the oven (after only 10 minutes), we put them together.

Actually, there was no need for anchovy, as the sauce already packed plenty of umami.

Pork with Baby Bok Choy

Thursday 28 January
We are trying to get more greenery into our winter dinners, and luckily little Shanghai bok choy are sometimes available even at our local Kroger's. 

A simple stir-fry ensued: first the sliced bok choy (stems and then leaves) with salt and fresh ginger, removed from the wok and replaced with shredded pork marinated with soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, garlic, and a touch of sugar.  A couple of spoonfuls of garlic and black bean sauce plus a small squirt of hoisin sauce got stirred into the center, to balance the flavors.  Then the bok choy went in to re-warm, sesame oil got drizzled over, and that was it.

Shrimp-Stuffed Avocados

Wednesday 27 January
Madison's sells three avocados for $2, and if you're patient enough to buy hard ones, wait for them to ripen, and use them as soon as they do, they make a favorite quick dinner, just stuffed with some sort of seafood mayonnaise.  
In this case we boiled up about 1o oz. of frozen shrimp, and mixed the mayonnaise with lime juice and medium Chimayo chile powder.
A light but full meal, humming with flavor.

Operatic Anniversary Dinner

Tuesday 26 January

Exactly twenty-five years ago, under glittering chandeliers and absurd, colorful Chagall murals, we had a champagne and duck dinner that neither of us remembers very clearly at the Grand Tier Restaurant of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.  But the dessert - a tiered wedding cake with cannoli cream from Veniero's - still lingers in our memories, as does the closeness of beloved families and friends, and the performance of Die Zauberflöte that followed.
How do you follow that act, especially when you're celebrating your silver anniversary in Cincinnati?  Well, begin with more opera: Holt put on a CD of Der Rosenkavalier, and presented Barbara with a silver rose on a pillow (which Dora also appreciated, as you can see).  Then Barbara presented Holt with a new silver food processor, though not on a pillow.  And then we got down to the food and drink.
We filled our wedding flutes with Jaume Serra Cristallino, and had a first course of potato galettes topped with yogurt and red caviar.
For our second course, Holt had gone to Bender's meats at Findlay Market, where they hand-cut a couple of 1 1/2" thick tournedos from a whole beef tenderloin.  He carefully pan-fried them, then served them with roasted asparagus and classic sauce béarnaise.

To accompany such a dish, we decanted two half bottles of our precious 1989 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape - it threw a hell of a sediment, but is still remarkable after 27 years.

We finished up with slices of Liz's homemade Mallorcan almond cake and Graeter's chocolate hazelnut truffle gelato, a dessert worthy of such a celebration. 

Black Bean Soup with Sausage

Monday 25 January
We had soaked (overnight) and crockpotted (all day) a mess of black beans, with no particular idea of what to do with them.  In the same way ("on spec," as we often say), we had bought a pound package of smoked Italian sausage by Ramundo Family, a local company that one of our Findlay Market meat purveyors was trying out.  They were good, if not particularly Italian beyond being flavored with fennel.  So we decided to go Mexican, with this recipe.

Of course, we improved it to our own tastes.  You must have equal parts of coriander as well as cumin; we only used a half a chipotle in adobo, which was spicy enough; and no chicken stock or cilantro was needed for a savory and satisfying soup.